“Don’t stop dreaming, push your limits, conquer the impossible.” Thanos Mikroutsikos
Written by Panagiotis Apostolatos on February 16, 2020
“Don’t stop dreaming, push your limits, conquer the impossible.”
Thanos Mikroutsikos (1947-2019)
Thanos Mikroutsikos is one of the most important composers of classical and contemporary Greek music, with a rich and varied work. He practiced almost all types of music and worked with many top performers. Much of his work is in the field of artistic Greek song, with hundreds of songs written by Greek and foreign poets. He was also distinguished as a cultural manager in positions of responsibility, but also for his political activity.
He was born in Patras on April 13, 1947. His father was a mathematician who lost his job because of his leftist beliefs. His mother was from an old bourgeois family in Patras. He grew up in a musical environment and he began his musical studies at an early age at the Patras Philharmonic Society and the Hellenic Conservatory (piano, theory, harmony). He studied harmony, counterpoint, fugue and composition with the composer G.A. Papaioannou. He also studied and graduated from the Mathematics Department of the University of Athens.
Photography by Dionisis Kalimeris
His career as a composer began in the late 1960s and included opera, chamber music, symphonic music, theater music, electronic music, songs, and more. He officially appeared in the discography in 1975, with the album “Political Songs”, in which he composed poems by Nazim Hikmet and Wolf Burman. He continued his synthetic journey, melodizing Giannis Ritsos, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Manos Eleftheriou, Bertolt Brecht and others. His recordings of “Cantata for Macronissos”, “Fuente Ovejuna”, “Hymns for Murderers” and “Musical Act in Brecht” are characteristic of the radical climate of the early post-political years. Especially the “Cantata for Macronissos” was a pioneering work of its time, in which the composer experimented with atonal music. This work has received distinction at international festivals and has been accompanied by Maria Dimitriadis’ interpretation.
Criticism on Mikroutsikos’ song has identified a new form of creation: a free of form song (as opposed to the established logic of couplet-refrain) that draws on jazz, rock and western music tradition, as it evolved in the postwar years. His song, at least during that first period of the composer’s creation, relies more on the power of some rhythmic acrobatics than on its melodism and is delivered through a rather “hard” orchestration, in which wooden and brass instruments play the leading part.
In 1979 he released the album “Cross of the South”, in a poetry by Nikos Kavvadias, with which he became more widely known. His songs at first were met with skepticism, but quickly gained popularity and today the “Cross of the South” is considered one of the gems of Greek discography, with more than 2 millions sales.
Always with the same love for the rhyme, Thanos Mikroutsikos continued to melodize Giannis Ritsos, Alkis Alkeos, Costas Tripolitis, Francois Vignon, Constantinos Cavafis and others. He has also presented the opera “Eleni” and has melodized tales. Much of his work is occupied by theatrical music, while the rest cover various atonal and electronic works of a rather experimental nature (mixing tonal and atonal elements in the same composition, dealing with different forms and using them simultaneously in one work). These composer’s searches have been a way of presenting his work abroad. He has collaborated with many Greek and foreign directors, writing music for many theatrical plays that have been presented around the world.
Photography by Dionisis Kalimeris
He has recorded dozens of LPs and CDs with EMI Classics, Blue Note, Polydor, Sony (CBS), Minos-Emi, Agora, Lyra, HMV, and more. He has written music for about a hundred theatrical plays, fifteen productions of ancient drama (Epidaurus-Herodion) and sixteen productions abroad (Belgium, France, England, Italy, Switzerland, etc.). He has directed three plays in the field of musical theater.
During his career he has given hundreds of concerts in Greece and abroad. He has participated or his works have been played in many international music festivals (London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Paris, Lille, Lyon, Rennes, Montpellier, Brussels, Liege, Geneva, Lausanne, Barcelona, Madrid, Verona, Florence, Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Vienna, Istanbul, Budapest, Bucharest, Constanta, Norwich, Louisiana, Chicago, Hong Kong, Bourges, Milan, Lisbon, Ankara, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Cairo, etc.).
His works have been performed by all Greek orchestras as well as major overseas bands such as Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra, Liege Philharmonic Orchestra, Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, Armenia Philharmonic Orchestra, Erfurt Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Constantinople Symphonic Orchestra, Cordoba Symphonic Orchestra, Tirana Symphonic Orchestra, Black Sea Philharmonic Orchestra, Rennes Symphonic Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphonic Orchestra, Karlsruhe Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Versailles Camerata, Ankara Chamber Orchestra, Vienna Kontrapunkt Band, Budapest Chamber Chorus, Musica Polyphonica, Vienna Arnold Schoenberg Chorus, La Monne Opera Quartet, Razumovsky Quartet, Tsiligirian Quartet, New Hellenic Quartet, Ichodrasi, Camerata-Friends of Music Orchestra, Orchestra of Colors, National Orchestras of Athens and Thessaloniki, Patras Orchestra and more.
He has collaborated with international maestros and soloists such as Jerzy Swoboda, Adrew Davis, Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Alexander Myrat, Louis Devos, Gunther Schuller, Peter Keuschnig, Leo Brouwer, Loris Tjeknavorian, Saulius Sondeckis, Amaury du Closel, Gurer Aykal, Erwin Ortner, Radu Ciorei, Simeon Kogan, Gary Burton, David Miller, Augustin Dumay, Michel Beroff, Pedro Carneiro, Sergei Krylov, Ivan Bastos, Jordi Mora, Irene Jarsky, Lieve Janssen, Nicolas Economou, Theodoros Antoniou, Costas Kotsiolis, Alkis Baltas, Nikos Tsouhlos, Yiannis Vakarelis, Loukas Karytinos, Lefteris Chalkiadakis, Vassilis Christopoulos, Dimitris Kavrakos, Pavlos Sergiou, Antonis Kotogeorgiou, Giannis Mantakas, Kostis Konstantaras etc.
He has collaborated with almost all major Greek performers and musicians, such as Maria Dimitriadis, Haris Alexiou, Manolis Mitsias, Dimitris Mitropanos, Vassilis Papakonstantinou, Christos Thebaios, Yiannis Koutras and many more. He has also collaborated with many international artists, including Irene Jarsky, Petro Guelfutsi, Udo Reinemann, Lucienne Van Deyck, Lieve Janssen, Sezen Aktsu, Leonce Wapelhorst, Chris Demoor, Lucile Vignon, Georgeta Stoleriu Holdorrf, Gerda Hartmann, Gerda Langer, Milva, Peter Jelosits, Erich Schneider, Gary Burton, Augustin Dumay, Michel Beroff, Iwona Glinka, Stefania Mormone, Timur Selzuk, Marc Grauwels, Johan Rycken, John Kenny, Benjamin Erlich, Eduardo Pecci, Fabio Tagliaferri, Rowney Scott Jr., etc.
Apart from his artistic activities, Thanos Mikroutsikos had been involved in the political life of the country since the early 1960s. During the dictatorship he was persecuted for his anti-dictatorial activities and ideas. After the fall of the junta, he continued to deal with the political issues, especially in the early years of the change of polity. After the elections of October 1993, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Culture, with Melina Mercouri as Minister. Following the death of Melina Mercouri, he became Minister of Culture on 16 March 1994, where he remained until 22 January 1996.
Photography by Dionisis Kalimeris
DISTINCTIONS AND PRIZES
– Founder and artistic director of Patras International Festival (1986-1990).
– Artistic Director of the Music Analogue at the Athens Concert Hall (1990-1993).
– Artistic Director of HMV (Greece) (1996-2004).
– President and CEO of the Greek Festival (Athens and Epidaurus Festival) (1998-1999).
– Management Advisor for Cultural Affairs at Athens 2004 (2002-04).
– Artistic Director of the “Patras European Capital of Culture 2006” (November 2003 – January 2006).
Thanos Mikroutsikos was a member of the Union of Greek Musicians. In 2002 he was honored for his music at the theater with the “Dimitris Mitropoulos” prize from the Greek Theater Research and Study Center. He became an honorary citizen in many cities of Greece for his musical activity and his work in cultural management.
Thanos Mikroutsikos passed away on 28 December 2019, at the age of 72. He had four children (two boys and two girls) of his three weddings.
Many thanks to the great photographer Dionisis Kalimeris for the exclusive photographic material!!