April 1967 Mikis had just completed a cycle of songs to the
Romancero Gitan of Garcia Lorca translated into Greek by
it ranks perhaps higher in quality than any of his pre-dictatorship
song cycles, the Romancero Gitan was not destined
to become a great popular success.
It was recorded in 1970 in Paris after Theodorakis's release from
house arrest, and by the time Theodorakis returned to Greece he
was concerned with new forms of composition.
Theodorakis first read the Elytis translations of Lorca, he was
excited by the parallels between the Spanish and Greek experience.
Federico Garcia Lorca
The Hostage, Romancero Gitan provided
the composer with a contemporary voice of protest couched in a poetic
text of great beauty, and just as The Hostage had immediate
relevance to the Cyprus situation, the violent murder of Antonio Torres
Heredia was a reminder of the brutalities committed by fascists in Spain
and Greece. In the Spanish landscape of the Romancero - the whitewashed
houses of 'Mort d'amor', the shining lemons, moons and oranges - the parallels
with Greece were drawn still closer.
Although the foreign setting precludes the Lorca cycle from being as popular
as Romiossini with his Greek audiences I cannot help
liking it better than any of Theodorakis's song cycles. The characteristic
Theodorakis motifs occur regularly but the melodies are more varied. Repeated
notes of identical pitch are followed by the descending pattern of three
in Antonio Heredia I, the same device is extended into a dramatic
recitative in Antonio Heredia II, the lyric major melody with
the major triad as a melodic bass that was used in the gay songs of The
Hostage reappears in Death of Love. But just as The
Hostage seemed to have captured an uncharacteristic wryness from
its Irish text, so Romancero Gitan is infused with a
definite Spanish flavour, apparent occasionally in melody, occasionally
There are three remarkably beautiful songs in the Lorca cycle.
The finest is 'Pandermi', (Ballad of the Black Sorrow).(...)
The long melisma on the word 'dawn' is simply the two devices Theodorakis
noted in his analysis of the Palm Sunday Hymn, i.e. the three descending
notes of the minor third and a decoration around the tonic. The third
phrase echoes the second but a sudden leap of a minor sixth leads us to
the climax of the opening section, again closing with the pattern of three
descending notes and heralding the appearance of the tragic figure of
Pandermi. The fourth melodic phrase closes on the tonic. It is followed
by a new section where the melody rises sharply to the words 'Black gloom,
her soul' and ends on a long drawn-out melisma on the word 'soul'. (...)
If ever there was a song for the voice of Maria Farandouri it is 'Pandermi'.
She has recorded the Lorca songs with the Australian guitarist John Williams,
whose filagreed accompaniments accentuate the Spanish character of the
songs but lose some of the driving rhythm of the Greek popular orchestra.
The two lyrical major songs 'The Wind and the Beauty' and 'Death
of Love' are only marginally inferior to 'Pandermi' in their
melodic beauty and careful relation of word to melody. "The Wind
and the Beauty' begins with an 11 bar melody built on four parallel
two-bar phrases. In all of his composition Theodorakis has never produced
a song of quite such delicate smoothness. It shines with the same silver
light that delights the little gypsy girl, threatened by the 'unsleeping
'Death of Love' is distinguished by a surprising modulation frorm
E major to D flat major for another moonlit scene... 'In the night,
in the heat / The whitewashed walls shine'.
Antonio Torres Heredia songs — the arrest and the death
— form a dramatic pair. The 'arrest' begins with four C's
followed by a running passage of descending quavers. The same motif is
repeated a tone higher in bars 17-20. It establishes a mood of urgency
and boldness. A melodic phrase which occurs in 'Pandermi' gives
the melody a brief resting place while the handsome lad stops, cuts lemons,
throws them in the water and turns it golden. The urgency returns from
the violent scene of the arrest. Antonio Torres Heredia II opens
with a dramatic cry. The actual murder is described in a deceptively gay
passage which slows to a climax in a cadence mirroring the opening phrase.
It is a Heroic death. Antonio, outnumbered by police, fights to the death,
his blood staining his crimson tie.
Theodorakis must have thought often of his triumphant song of death as
he experienced the first horrors of dictatorship. He was convinced that
a similar fate had been planned for him: to die a martyr's death for having
spent his life writing about heroes.
© Gail Holst: Theodorakis. Myth & Politics
in Modern Greek Music, 1980
Romancero Gitano: Poems in English | Lorca: