Yannis Ritsos and Mikis Theodorakis at the creation of the 7th Symphony (Guy Wagner)
1978, I set a few verses of the »Lady of the Vineyards«
to music and enjoyed playing it to my friends in Paris. In 1982, I went
back to this material and in the space of two weeks, had completed the
Finale of the 7th Symphony.
earth shudders. Under the earth the growing seed rustles. The shoots,
pushing upwards, try and pierce the earth's crust, to reach the light,
to greet the sun. Lost in the innocence of youth, how can I explain the
pain that racks me like a drum beating in the chaos of my thoughts and
my being? In those years, between 1940 and 1943, my greatest torment was
the shadow of God. It is understandable that I turned to poetry, which
could unlock the door into Space. Seeking God I sought you. The voice
sounded deep, as though it arose out of the icy March earth. The more
powerful the Spring becomes, the clearer the voice can be heard, blending
with the sounds of the seed and the sap that rises in trees and youths.
I feel a pair of eyes watching me from behind the closed shutters as I
lie down at night and stare at the white walls of the house, that sleeps
on unawares. I feel your hair perfume the night.
Movement : The Execution of Athena
the events: 1940 to 1943, in the town of Tripolis in the Peloponnese.
I shared my love for »Spring Symphony« and »March of
the Ocean« with my friend Yorgos Kouloukis. 1947/8, the Civil War:
Yorgos is condemned to death and put in prison. One morning, the guards
drag Athena, a partisan, who had been taken prisoner after the Battle
of Zatouna, out of the next-door cell. They lead her to the wall in the
yard and shoot her. Everyone sees how the juice of the oranges she is
pressing to her breast mingles with her blood. 1949, torture-island Makronissos:
morning's forced labour in the fourth ward. Prisoners lugging rolls of
barbed-wire in twos. The icy North wind cuts into the skin, stirring up
the dust so that we can hardly see. We have turned up our collars and
pulled our peaked caps down as far as we can. Filthy, unshaven, the only
reminder that we are men : the eyes. I look my neighbour in the eyes and
recognise Kouloukis. 1955, I am living in Paris, Yorgos is working as
a teacher in a small village near the border of Lakonia. He hears a performance
of my First Symphony by the National Orchestra of Athens on the radio,
writes the poem »First Symphony« and sends it to me in Paris.
July 1968, Vrachati: I set the poem to music and change the title to »My
Sister Athena«. September 1968, banishment to Zatouna: I am under
house-arrest and am working on the harmony of the new song. An elderly
woman and her daughter move into the house next door, with the permission
of the constabulary. She is married to an officer of the Junta. In the
evening, they sit on Mrs Marigo's balcony. The village schoolmistress
tells us through my daughter Margarita that she has come here in commemoration
of her daughter, a partisan, who had been taken prisoner in Zatouna, during
the Civil War and executed. I wonder if she is Athena's mother. I let
her know that I am going to sing a song that is dedicated to a girl who
was taken prisoner in the area. She listens from the house opposite and
weeps silently. Between our two houses sit the guards, smoking and cracking
jokes. 1976, Panathenian Stadium: during a concert for Cyprus, Maria Farantouri
sings the song for Athena for the first and last time.
Movement : March of the Ocean
scene changes to a harbour by night. There begins the voyage that casts
its shadow on the passing ships. The choir comes in again, a being of
many-faces, in which each voice becomes audible and then disappears -
sound flares over the dark waters of the ocean. They shed light, fleetingly,
now on soldiers in helmets, now on wounded hands like forgiveness that
Movement : Lady of the Vineyards
we have the right to sing. The sound turned into a cry then into noise,
having passed through silence. We sat with Athena at the supper-table.
Then we got lost on the highways of the ocean. We discovered the sea and
with it, the godliness of God. And all that only to taste the simple,
insignificant things the Lady of the Vineyards has to offer us, that make
us into little Gods. A paeon of praise and thankfulness fills our soul.
We sing the song month after month, year in year out, century upon century.
It is no coincidence that I used the same ancient hymn-tune in the middle
of the »Third Symphony« as a homage to Byzantium. Lady of
the Vineyards, raven-haired lady : is she the Greek earth? Is she the
Mother of God? Is she the bee? The bitter orange? The hymn-tune - a new
Apollo, who continues along the path that Dionysius had begun to tread.
He follows the poet who could distill the world's sorrow in the cool dew.
One drop, the Symphony (the Seventh, in order to reach the seventh heaven,
to achieve the magic power of the Pythagorians). The drop : a microcosm,
into which anyone can enter whole, if under the spell of the stillness
in his heart.
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