In the "Zorba" ballet suite, Mikis Theodorakis uses almost exclusively well-known popular songs which he composed mainly in the 1960s. Some of them have been incorporated in the work as melodies, some of them as vocal pieces. It took twenty years before the composer became his normal self again; he first had to experience the disillusionment at the end of the 1970s concerning the social progress in Greece in order to be finally able to pick up the musical material, continue the compositional impetus of the 1950s and develop an appreciation for the genre of the opera in the mid-eighties which suits his composer's mentality both as a melodist and as a symphonic composer very well.
Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis is probably best known for the soundtrack to the film 'Zorba the Greek,' but he has produced an extensive body of concert music and includes Olivier Messiaen among his teachers. Much of his work has a political subtext and attempts a synthesis of popular, folk and classical symphonic styles, communicating directly with simple rhythms and a pared-down harmonic vocabulary reminiscent of Carl Orff. The oratorio "axion esti" is a setting of a poem by Nobel Prize winner Odysseus Elytis that refers to events of the Second World War and the subsequent German-Italian occupation of Greece. The nationalist flavor of the piece is underscored by the use of Byzantine church music, Greek folk dances and native instruments such as the bouzouki, in addition to a vocalist cast as a "folk singer." This 1983 Dresden performance, conducted by Theodorakis himself, is sung in German.
Mikis Theodorakis is legendary Greek composer, born in Chios, Greece on 29th July 1925. He has worked for the Greek as well as international music industry for the last 70 years, contributing close to a thousand songs along the way. He has mostly centered his compositions to 20th century classical Greek music, working in a wide setting of genres. In a career that has been marred by rich musical taste, he has worked in various dimensions of production such as symphonic works, chamber music, cantatas, hymns, operas, stage plays and film scores. His work, in addition to featuring classical Greek poems and literature, is also influenced by his political leanings and struggles which were shaped throughout his life.
Two internationally renowned musicians, Mikis Theodorakis from Greece and Zülfü Livaneli from Turkey, have – at a time of considerable political tension between their two countries – made a record together. Five compositions by each of the two artists were recorded in Instanbul and in Athens respectively. For 18 weeks this LP was top of the Turkish charts, and in September 1986, the 'Golden Record' was presented to Mikis Theodorakis personally in Istanbul.
This large-scale work by Theodorakis sets the poems of Pablo Neruda to an orchestral score.