‘Mauthausen’ in four languages

Few musical works, especially ones originally released with non-English lyrics, have managed to establish themselves internationally for capturing wretchedness, repression of freedom, unjust suffering, rage against fascist violence and man’s need to fight against it, as «Mauthausen,» the leading anti-fascist, anti-war work by composer Mikis Theodorakis and writer Iakovos Kambanellis. The masterpiece is being re-released in new German and Greek editions covering four languages, English, German, Greek and Hebrew. One could fill countless pages on the music of «Mauthausen,» its poetry and symbolic wealth, and how these embody all that the mind cannot hold. The quality of the work’s material could only be found in the work of Mahler. But, above all, it is probably even more important to note that this composition – heard by millions of individuals who annually visit the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial, or the site of an unrivaled death chamber that disgraced European civilization and cast huge doubts over it, fortunately not irrevocably – was inspired by the mass of victims. It is interesting to note how each translation differs in the way it blends with Theodorakis’s music both organically and inorganically; and which, in this case, does not carry Greek, Jewish, German or English elements. Instead, the composition rises above ethnic influences to cover a wider human state. The German re-release, on the Plane label, compiles three interpretations of «Mauthausen:» Its Greek version, recorded live at Mauthausen on May 7, 1995, documents a concert by Theodorakis with two Austrian choirs and the work’s original vocalist, Maria Farandouri, the only person who could possibly rival her own original recorded performance of the 1960s. The second of the three versions included on the Plane label release, in English, was recorded in August, 1995 and July 1999, in Frankfurt, with Nadia Weinberg. The third is a Hebrew version recorded on May 9, 1995 in Tel Aviv with Elinoar Moav Veniadis as its soloist, and one of the world’s leading orchestras, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. This excellent package also includes a vocal excerpt by Simon Wiesenthal, the Austrian-Jewish hunter of Nazi war criminals, who recalls, in German, his Mauthausen experience, as well as two pieces of text by Theodorakis and Kambanellis on the making of this monumental work. The other «Mauthausen» release, on the Greek label Nostos, offers a previously unavailable version of the work recorded live in 1988, just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, by the Berliner Ensemble and the renowned actress and singer Gisella May. May also interprets other Theodorakis songs such as «To Gelasto Pedi» from his «Ena Omiro» album and «Dioti Den Synemorfothin» from «Ta Tragoudia Tou Agona.» Thanassis Moraitis, who had appeared on Theodorakis’s «Dionysos» album in 1985, also sings several of the composer’s songs.

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