In 1978, Theodorakis, through his article "For a United Left Wing", had stirred up the Greek political life. His proposal for the unification of the three parties of the former United Left - which had grown out of the National Liberation Front (N.L.F.) - had been accepted by the Greek Communist Party which later proposed him as the candidate for mayor of Athens during the 1978 elections.
CD: I Gitonies tou Kosmou
Moved by this re-unification with the main National Resistance Party - the Greek Communist Party - the composer composed two works that were immediately released, namely: OCTOBER' 78 and NEIGHBORHOODS OF THE WORLD.
By releasing the latter, the composer was reunited with the poetry of
Yiannis Ritsos, who participated in the release of the record by reciting excerpts of his poetry works.
To fully comprehend the poetry and the music of this work, one must use one's imagination and picture what it was like to stroll about the city in the days following the liberation of Athens from the German occupation, in 1944.
You must imagine neighborhoods of Athens, especially those that had suffered most, where people had joined the National Liberation Front, their children had fought in the ranks of the National People's Liberation Army (N.P.L.A.) and had been punished harshly by the occupying forces. Many of these neighborhoods liberated themselves long before the departure of the Germans.
It was precisely the inhabitants of these neighborhoods who would walk each day to Constitution Square - men, women, children, old people, members of the National People's Liberation Army, all proud, joyful and drunk on the wine of freedom - in order to demonstrate not only their relief at having been liberated but also their faith in the future which, they believed lay firmly in their own hands.
In these neighborhoods, people stayed outdoors all the time. There were political rallies as well as festivals with songs, sketches and readings.
At the time of the Liberation, Theodorakis was a cultural leader of the fifth
chapter of the Greek Political Youth Organisation (G.P.Y.O) which was situated in Kallithea. There was a house there where, members of G.P.Y.O., surrounded by Germans whom they had heroically fought against, had committed suicide so as not to surrender. This house had been turned into a monument to which people paid their respects every day.
It was at this house where Theodorakis presented a composition especially written for it, both lyrics and music. The composer himself conducted a choir of boys and girls. Unfortunately no score for this work has been preserved.
When composing THE NEIGHBORHOODS OF THE WORLD, the composer said that he sought to depict the spirit of that era which, he knew, addressed that specific audience, one which possessed an almost childish temperament, great purity and deep emotions. It was enough for someone to utter the word "Comrade" for people to start crying and clapping their hands.
He himself had experienced and seen the young communists fighting with a rifle in their hands in order to protect the people neighborhood and their property. He saw them resisting like lions and sacrificing themselves for the local people. It is certain that, no people have ever felt a more direct, vast, sincere sense of gratitude towards their youth.
It was these people, with this specific temperament, this specific psychological and mental attitude that the National People's Liberation Army writers, poets and artists addressed. First among such artists was Yiannis Ritsos, who, like Theodorakis, had lived alongside these people in the neighborhoods, the mountains, in prison and on the barren islands of exile.
The Theodorakis who composed the PASSENGER was the man, the artist and the politician of that moment in 1981 who expressed himself in terms of the 'present' as he perceived it. With THE NEIGHBORHOODS OF THE WORLD, in contrast, the artist's reunification with the Communist Party of Greece led him to the past, to the era of the struggles in the National Liberation Front, in the Greek Political Youth Organization, in the Greek Liberation Army where he had spent the best years of his life and where he had experienced the great ordeals that molded him. It is probable that, by composing this musical piece, the artist sought to re-compose the forgotten "oratorio" that he had conducted on a Sunday back in November 1944 in front of that symbolic house at Kallithea.
Theodorakis had composed a true Folk Oratorio using the choir in a monophonic dialogue with the soloist while his orchestra was based on the strict form of his popular ensemble with the addition of two wind instruments namely, flute and clarinet.
The clarinet was important in the introduction to the work whereupon the Choir sang with Byzantine unison bass in the folk melody This spring. As in the era of the National Liberation Front, during which there was the trend to equate the National Resistance with the 1821 era, the heroic tradition was the starting point of this work.
When Yiannis Ritsos recited his poetry, Theodorakis was reminded of the classical symphonic composers, and felt that he ought to match the qualities of Ritsos, the classical poet. As she had achieved in her interpretation of PASSENGER, Maria Farandouri, again reassured her audiences of her maturity and quality as a singer.
Specifically, in her interpretation of the exquisite song Think of Life, she demonstrated that she was well ahead of her time.
The re-editing of this work, 25 years after its birth, gives the Greek audiences the opportunity discover and embrace a treasure that truly belongs to them.
© Andreas Brandes
I GITONIES TOU KOSMOU - THE NEIGHBORHOODS OF THE WORLD, AST 237
Composed: August 1978 in Athens and Omsk (Siberia)
1. Touti tin anixi - The Spring
2. O ilios Evasilepse - The Sun Set
3. Etsi mikro itan t oniro mas - Our Dream was small like this
4. I gitonies ine erimes - The Neighborhoods are deserted
5. Itan pikres I meres mas - Our Days were bitter
6. Vasanismeni politia - Tortured City
7. Itan omorfes ekines I meres - Those Days were beautiful
8. Nates ke pali I simees - There are the Flags again
9. Skepsou I zoi - Think of Life
10. Gia ke hara sou lefteria - Good-bye Freedom
11. Na lipis - Be absent
First performance: 13.11.1978 in Athens
Recording: 1979 with Maria Farantouri, Yannis Thomopoulos, Choir Terpsichore Papastefanou, Orchestra, Mikis Theodorakis