CULTURE

Classical singer adds new chapter to the book of Theodorakis

During his half a century or so as a songwriter, Mikis Theodorakis has accomplished something rare – of genetic proportions. The composer’s work has become a part of the country’s collective DNA. Songs like «Sto Perigiali to Kryfo,» «O Kaimos,» «Varka Sto Gyalo,» «Tou Mikrou Voria,» «Mera Magiou,» «Hathika,» and so many others, have sunk so deeply into modern Greece’s collective conscience that one tends to forget that the material was actually written by a certain individual. Instead, songs such as these give the impression that they have always been around, like a part of nature, or the land itself. We were acquainted with these songs by deliveries from great vocalists, among them Maria Farandouri, Grigoris Bithikotsis and Stelios Kazantzidis, whose unrivaled performances virtually made the songs their own. Any thought of reinterpreting and rerecording such classics could be a huge risk. But one man with a background in classical rather than popular music, bass Christoforos Stamboglis, dared to take the initiative. Stamboglis culled the aforementioned songs, and many more, for a new album, «Mikis Theodorakis from the Voice of Christoforos Stamboglis.» His singing, accompanied by Tassos Karakatsanis on piano, opens new horizons. On the strength of his song selections alone, Stamboglis manages to depict – quite thoroughly – the mosaic of Theodorakis’s songwriting, which is no simple matter considering the composer’s depth and diversity. In a way, Stamboglis brings together a half-century of Theodorakis by presenting the man’s songs from a classical perspective. Theodorakis worked with many ideal vocalists who covered segments of the composer’s body of work. But nobody – except, possibly, for the man himself, when he sings – was able to fully plunge into the depths of the composer’s classically inspired world. Stamboglis manages to shed light on these dimensions. In essence, this album achieves the unattainable. We get to hear songs that sound entirely different in comparison with their original versions. How? Through a method that closely resembles a German lied. Anybody familiar with the songs of Schumann and Schubert, and later on, Mahler and Zemlinsky, know well that some of these Theodorakis songs have carved their own place in the history of lieder, even if this realization generates allergies for some. With this superb release, Stamboglis and an exemplary and inspired Karakatsanis have opened a new and significant chapter in the book of Theodorakis. The further we distance ourselves from the historical context of these songs, the greater this chapter’s significance will seem, with its offering of a world of infinite melodic and harmonic bounty.