Remembering Yannis Markopoulos: One of the greatest modern Greek composers


Yannis Markopoulos was part of a very big chapter in the history of Greek music as he inspired a new musical movement where he masterfully combined the traditional with classical and modern sounds.

Markopoulos was prolific writer and he composed, during his long career, works covering a wide range of music from art music and orchestral pieces to operas, oratorios and music for theater and cinema.

Early Life:

Markopoulos was one of the most important modern Greek composers alongside Mikis Theodorakis, Vangelis Papathanasiou and Thanos Mikroutsikos.

He was born in 1939 in Heraklion, Crete. His father is Georgios Markopoulos, former prefect of Lasithi and his mother is Irini Aeraki from Sitia.

He spent his childhood in Ierapetra, where he took his first music lessons in theory and the violin. His first influences came from local music, as well as from classical music, the music of the wider eastern Mediterranean, and especially of nearby Egypt.

Yannis Markopoulos

In 1956, Markopoulos continued his musical studies at the Athens Conservatory, with the composer Georgios Sklavos and the violin teacher Joseph Bustidui. At the same time, he was admitted to Panteion University for social and philosophical studies while also composing for theatre and cinema.

Musical career:

In 1963, Markopoulos won an award for his music in Mikres Aphrodites by Nikos Koundouros at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, and in the same year his musical works Theseas (dance drama), Hiroshima (ballet suite) and Three Sketches for Dance were staged by new dance ensembles.

From October 1965 to April 1984, he provided music for all the plays presented by the Barba Mitoussis Puppet Theater. This Puppet Theater finally ended its operation on April 15, 1984.

In 1967, a dictatorship was imposed on Greece and Markopoulos left for London. There he enriched his musical knowledge with the English composer Elisabeth Lutyens.

Yannis Markopoulos

At the same time, he completed the musical composition Behold the Bridegroom, a work which is remembered as one of his most famous pieces.

In London, he also composed the Choruses and the first Pyrrhic dances A, B, C, (out of the 24 he completed in 2001), which were played, in 1968, by the Concertante Orchestra of London at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. He also wrote the music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest, staged by the National Theater of England, directed by David Jones.

Later Life and Death:

In 1969, Markopoulos returned to Athens to contribute with his works to the path for the restoration of democracy, creating a new movement for art and its utility and seeking the deeper unity of man with his natural and social environment.

Markopoulos died on June 10, 2023 after being submitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Athens General Hospital “Alexandra”.

The Greek composer had been battling cancer for a year and he underwent an operation to treat it, but since his body was particularly weakened, complications arose leading to his death.





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