Mikis Theodorakis: Symphony no. 2 / Il Canto della Terra

Lately a channel on YouTube published an audio-video with the complete symphony number two. An amazing, very impressive composition!



There was hardly some English information to be found: not on the official website, not in Wikipedia, not in Gail Holst’s biography about Mikis, not in Guy Wagner’s and Asteris Koutoulas’s Chronology, not in the so many music catalogues on websites like Schott music.

The Cretan Mikis Theodorakis website though wrote about it in an article, but in Greek, and I have tried to translate it with google. Translating with google is dangerous: sometimes google offers words that are not the right words within a sentence. In the following text I built up a new old story of facts. If there are mistakes in facts, please contact me.


Two different times                                                                                                                   Symphony number two has been composed in two different times. The first time is a period between 1954 and 1958, the second in 1982. The symphony found its start in Paris. In this post I created the A-time (1954-1958) and the B-time (1982).


A. Paris (1954-1958)                                                                                                                   Mikis Theodorakis started composing the Symphony no. 2 in Paris in the years between 1954 and 1958, the time that he lived and studied in Paris at the Conservatoire, after he received a bursary for it in 1953. He was a student of Olivier Messiaen for musical analysis, and of Eugène Bigot for conducting, while Myrto finished her studies as a radiologist at the Curie-Institute.


If I understood the information on the Cretan website in the right way, then this period in Paris has been written down in music in the first three parts of the complete (four parts) Symphony, and must have been an expression of his tortured inbeing, his passioned connection with politics and resistance movements, with the civil war in Greece, with Makronisos, the island where leftists got imprisoned, including Mikis Theodorakis himself, and with the need to heal that torture by expressing it in music, this symphony, with more than words can tell.

As a kind of an anti-force towards evil, by facing it, and transforming it. On the Cretan website: “…the first three parts have the seal of the dramatic and tragic elements that characterize the psychology of the composer at that time.”

To understand more I invite you to read Gail Holst ‘s words on the official Theodorakis website: “(……) In Athens, Theodorakis registered at the conservatorium of music to study composition. At the same time he joined E.A.M., the largest of the resistance organisations to the German occupation. For the remainder of the war he took an active part in the resistance while continuing his studies in composition.
During the years of the Greek Civil War (1945-48) Theodorakis continued his political activities. He spent these years either in hiding or in prison camps. Arrested several times and severely tortured, he struggled to continue his musical activities. His first symphony was composed on the notorious prison island of Makronissos.
Despite the terrible conditions of Makronissos, where supporters of the Left were tortured and killed for their beliefs, it was here that Theodorakis began his lifelong struggle to effect a reconciliation between the opposing sides of the Civil War.”


B. The threat for an ecological disaster by a nuclear war (1982)                            In 1982 Symphony no. 2 has been completed by adding the fourth part, based on the threat for an ecological disaster by a nuclear war, and by composing an additional song for children’s choir, at the end of part three, with lyrics written by Mikis Theodorakis himself:

Το τραγούδι της                                                                                                                                  Γης δεν τ’ άκουσες ποτέ                                                                                                                   ούτε θ’ ακούσεις πια.                                                                                                               Σκότωσες όλα τα πουλιά                                                                                                                                                τα δάση                                                                                                                                                   το νερό                                                                                                                                                     το λαμπερό νερό                                                                                                                                  τον ποταμό.                                                                                                                               Πάει…                                                                                                                                              Σκότωσες το χώμα                                                                                                                              τον ήλιο                                                                                                                                                 την καρδιά σου.                                                                                                                                Ποτέ δεν θα ξαναδείς                                                                                                                                              το χρώμα τ’ ουρανού                                                                                                                          δεν θ’ ακούσεις ποτέ                                                                                                                            τον ήχο των χρωμάτων.                                                                                                                                      Σαν βολίδα προχωρείς στο χάος.                                                                                                     Στερνή φορά ας ακουστεί μες στη σιωπή                                                                                        το τραγούδι της Γης.                                                                                                                        Πριν τελικά τυλιχτώ στο χάος                                                                                                          ένα “γεια σου” θα πω στη ζωή.

The reason for using the voices of children has been Mikis Theodorakis’s need for the expression of Purity, Innocence and Vulnerability of Nature, of Earth, of Creation, of Life, Universe, of All Existance.

The Song of the Earth
We never heard it…..

And we will never ever hear it
All birds
The shining waters
Are dead….

If you bomb my Soil
The Sun
Your heart…

You will never see Me again
Me, Your Mother
The colour of the Sky
You will never hear anymore
The Sound of my Colours….

Like a Fireball
Moving forward
Into Chaos

As a last presence
You will hear 
Amid the Silence
The Song of the Earth
Me, The Mother

Singing my Song
Before finally rolling into
An embrace
For you.
As a part
Of my Life.

The Mother.
Your Mother
Our Mother.

(Free translated by Antoinette)


Information about the concert in the audio-video “Symphony no. 2″, The Song of the Earth, for Children’s Choir, solo piano and orchestra, sung text (3 rd movement) taken from the poem “The Song of the Earth” by Mikis Theodorakis                                                                                                                       Conductor: Mikis  Theodorakis                                                                                                       Solo Piano: Cyprien Katsaris                                                                                                     Children’s Choir: “Princesse Marie-Astrid”                                                                          Director Children’s Choir: Léon Krain                                                                                   Orchestra: Orchestre Symphonique de RTL


Cyprien Katsaris


Parts:                                                                                                                                                         1. Andante – Andante moderato – Andante cantabile – Allegro marcato – Andante

2. Presto – Adagio – Vicace – Adagio – Andante sostenuto

3. Andante – Andante cantabile – Lento

4. Finale (Presto – Adagio – Dolce)

Part 1, 2 and 3 have the seal of the dramatic and tragic elements that characterize the psychology of the composer at that time (1954 to 1958 ).                                                         Part 4  is for the most part based on the Cretan rhythms and full of life, power, brilliance and optimism (1982)

The Symphony no. 2 was at first intended to go up as a ballet for the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.


Other performance:                                                                                                                     Athens State Orchestra                                                                                                          Children’s Choir Lycée (D / Division Royal Catherine)                                                        Soloist (piano) Maria Asteriadou                                                                                            Address: Elias Voudouris


Note                                                                                                                                                       The title of the video whre this post starts with contains the years 1980-1981. This must be a mistake, because on the official Cretan Website the year 1982 has been given as the year the symphony was completed.


Sources for this post                                                                                                      YouTube channel TheWelleszTheatre                                                                                      Official Website Mikis Theodorakis                                                                                              Cretan Website Mikis Theodorakis                                                                                                 Wikipedia Greek Civil War                                                                                                        Wikipedia E.A.M.                                                                                                                          Wikipedia Makronisos                                                                                                          Wikipedia Conservatoire de Paris                                                                                              Wikipedia Olivier Messiaen                                                                                                      Website Eugène Bigot                                                                                                               Biography Mikis Theodorakis by Gail Holst Wagner                                                     Chronology by Guy Wagner and Asteris Koutoulas                                                                        Information in my post about Myrto Altinoglou                                                                     Wikipedia Marie Curie                                                                                                           Wikipedia Curie Institute                                                                                                                  Websites for Music                                                                                                                   Wikipedia Orchestre Symphonique de RTL                                                                                    Website Pianist Cyprien Katsaris


My personal answer to Symphony No. 2, in fact my “Il Canto della Terra” in a self made video creation…                                                                                                Music: Mikis Theodorakis                                                                                                               Title: Ximeroni                                                                                                                                 Artist: Vicky Leandros




About TheodorakisFriends

"TheodorakisFriends" is the name of my YouTube-channel and was set up in 2009, with the intention to collect all exisiting quality videos about and with Mikis Theodorakis' work as a composer, and also with and about his activities in politics and social life, from the far past till the present. In the meantime many thousands of videos are organized in more than 207 playlists. In 2010 the groups on YouTube disappeared from the channels, also my group Friends of Mikis, with many posts. To be able to continue with publishing mostly amazing information about and from Mikis Theodorakis, became the reason for creating the blog TheodorakisFriends: http://theodorakisfriends.com/
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