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Second Symphony: The Song of the Earth



Second Symphony: The Song of the Earth


12 February 2021

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"Mikis Theodorakis’ Second Symphony (1980-81), subtitled The Song of the Earth, constitutes the composer’s decisive return to the symphonic idiom, 20 years after the revolutionary milestone of Epitaph, which sent his music into a “detour” through a long period of engagement with popular song – a genre whose aesthetic and political possibilities he tested and expanded as few creators have done. The musical roots of the Second Symphony can be traced in Theodorakis’ European art music production of the ’50s, especially in his First Suite for piano and orchestra (1955) and the ballet Antigone (1958-59), material from which he reworked in the Second Symphony. If, as Mahler claimed in 1907, shortly before Das Lied von der Erde, the symphonic work in which he first used the title The Song of the Earth, “the symphony must be like the world; it must embrace everything”, what kind of world is created by Mikis Theodorakis in his Second Symphony? A dark and menacing world, with moral and ideological references to the –personal and collective– trauma of the Greek Civil War of 1946-49, as well as to widespread international sources of anguish during the Cold War years, such as the upsurge of violence and the always looming spectre of nuclear annihilation. Balancing the ever-present dread (rendered musically via a personal musical system based on tetrachords), Theodorakis envisions a kind of mythical, Promethean revolution against the almighty violence of power. Carriers of the revolution are the “children of the Earth”, vital forces represented in the work by the hopeful timbre of the children’s choir, singing a setting of a plaintive and urgent poetic summons written by Theodorakis himself. At last, the fiery battle of light and darkness leads to the unexpectedly hopeful conclusion of the work, with the Cretan rhythms of the First Suite accompanying the visionary universe of the Second Symphony to its hesitantly optimistic Exodus." (From Greek National Opera:

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