of the first LP-Edition
Ritsos is the poet with whom Theodorakis is most closely identified
in Greece. Like Theodorakis, Ritsos is a prolific writer an deeply
committed to the cause of the Left.
The nine songs of the cycle Romiossini
are settings of sections of a much longer poem in which Ritsos attempts,
as Elytis does in Axion Esti, to crystallise the events of recent
Greek history into a modern epic.
Ritsos's central theme is resistance — Romiossini,
the independent Greek spirit — from the time of Digenis Akritas,
through the Klephts and the War of Independence to the resistance
fighters of World War II and the Civil War.
recurrent image in the poem is the sound of bells; bells which will
sound the revolution, bells which are the sound of death, bells which
are sounding a warning of the danger threatening Greece's precarious
freedom. Theodorakis uses the bell motif as an important unifying device
in his cycle of songs. The first song, 'These Trees', opens
with eight D minor chord on bouzouki and piano and the tolling bell
chords are repeated in E minor at the beginning of 'So Many Years',
in F major in 'Tree by Tree', and in the chorus of 'With
so many Leaves'.
A second bell motif in open sixths occurs in the fifth and ninth songs
of the cycle, and a third pattern of repeated notes on a single pitch
played by the bouzouki appears in the song 'When They Shake Hands'.
The landscape Ritsos depicts in Romiossini is harsh,
luminous, rocky; the language is deliberately evocative of Greek folk
poetry. It takes its tone from the Klephtic ballads and from
the Cretan rizitika with their matching phrases and repeated
lines. The proud spirit of Romiossini belongs to Greek mountain fighters
who, despite their violent life, maintained a tight, puritanical code
* * *
There is no work of Theodorakis's which is as popular with his public
as Romiossini. How much of its success is due to the
poetry of Ritsos? Now it is hard to read the poetic text without hearing
the melodies which have become part of modem Greek folklore.
Certainly there was no poetry better suited to the monumental simplicity
of Theodorakis's melodies, a simplicity which is used consciously both
in the poetry and the music. Ritsos and Theodorakis both make frequent
reference to the traditional art forms of Greece, and by doing so both
have achieved a recognition which stretches well beyond what is usually
accorded to an intellectual artist.
On the other hand, the Romiossini songs are very popular
with audiences outside Greece. Even without an understanding of the
texts or a shared heritage of melodic references, the music has a strong
GAIL HOLST: Mikis Theodorakis. Myths and Politics in Modern Greek Music,
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