East Of The Aegean is nothing less than the quest of one of the great fighters of the twentieth century to make peace with himself. A big album with small songs full of love and anticipated memories.
Mikis Theodorakis is a composer whose life and work are more closely connected with the vicissitudes of twentieth-century European political history than any other musician alive today. A diverse range of political and artistic statements are associated with his name. From the very beginning, all the composer's activities have had just one thing in common – Theodorakis has always wanted to achieve the maximum. He was and is an extremist who differs from other radicals only in his versatility and unpredictability. Already as a young man, he was persecuted, tortured, exiled, and vilified, but he never allowed himself to be intimated, was ultimately reconciled with his enemies, and became an uncompromising advocate of internal and external political understanding. All his works are characterized by a seemingly hopeless inner struggle between idealism and reality in which neither of the two sides could ever win. Yet he never stayed in one camp for long. His positions were invariably surprising, and he was never one to avoid a controversy. For friends and enemies he was and is difficult to understand, because he always does exactly what one least expects from him, with passion.
After his oratorios, liturgies, symphonies, sumptuous soundtracks, and large-scale song cycles, the last thing one would expect from Mikis Theodorakis now is a quiet album that only relies on the melodious whispering of cello and piano. A sound that seems to emanate more from the subconscious than from reality. Yet, alongside the fighter, a romanticist has always dwelled within Theodorakis's personality as well. As a child, Franz Schubert's "Lindenbaum" (The Linden Tree) was one of his favorite songs. This appreciation of artless poetry combined with profound respect for the folklore of ordinary people have recurred throughout the composer's oeuvre. He has often displayed his greatest power in his simplest songs. One only needs to recall his soundtrack for the film classic Zorba the Greek, whose songs have long since been part of Greek folklore.
In calling his new album East Of The Aegean, Theodorakis harks back to his own origins. He was born on the island of Chios in the eastern Aegean Sea. His father came from Asia Minor, his mother from Crete. He himself describes the cycle as an ode to lyricism, a musical obeisance to literary themes. Even more, however, the twenty-one miniatures are thoughtful reflections on his own existence. They are like postcards or an artist's notebook full of sketches with candid impressions of the Greek coast. For a fleeting moment, antiquity and the present join hands to form a continuum that extends far beyond mortal lives.
Throughout his lifetime, Mikis Theodorakis has been concerned with the future. Formerly an exponent of rebellious youth, today he seeks solidarity with his grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's generations. His works do not sound like the music of someone in his mid-eighties, just as his overall world view shows no signs of old age. The venerable Greek is one of the few representatives of his generation for whom wisdom is not accompanied by a loss of inner youth.
In Wolfgang Schmiedt and Jens Naumilkat, Theodorakis has found two musicians who are ideally suited for a sensitive interpretation of this song cycle. Pianist Wolfgang Schmiedt is a subtle sound wizard for whom the magic of the tone is always more important than virtuosic exhibitionism. His enigmatic, discreet interweavings of jazz, the classics, world music, and pop are fascinating primarily because of their uninhibitedness and facility. He has collaborated closely with Mikis Theodorakis since 1991 and has arranged six of the composer's CDs. The Berlin jazz musician is a member of the legendary fusion band College, from which the Fun Horns also emerged, and he initiated the PAmagieRA project. Jens Naumilkat is at home in all musical genres. He made a name for himself on the East German jazz scene during the 1980s. The cellist's active cooperation with Theodorakis began in 1990. Together with Schmiedt, he produced a symphonic version of the composer's key work, Canto General, in 1998. On East Of The Aegean, they balance with uncanny certainty within the musical imagination of a man who was imprisoned because of his songs before they were even born.
I mera svini (The Day Ends)
Ta thalassina malia sou (Your Sea Hair)
I ora tis fotias (The Hour of Fire)
Mousiki earini (Spring Music)
I thalassa se per imeni (The Sea Awaits You)
Ke se agapo sto atelioto mesomeri (And I Love You in the Endless Noon Hour)
Orgono ta nera (I Ply the Waters)
Oso diarki i thalassa (As Long as the Sea Lasts)
Mousikes thalassines (Songs of the Sea)
O kiklos tou nerou (The Circle of Water)
Hromata thalassina (Colours of the Sea)
Figi niherini (Night Flight)
I rithmi ton kimaton (The Rhythm of the Waves)
To mistiriako Ai gaio (The Mystic Aegean)
Ta potamia tou kormiou sou (The Rivers of your Body)
Eripia bizantina (Bizantine Ruins)
I patimasies tou iliou (The Footprints of the Sun)
I pothi anavoun (Desires Ignite)
Me ti mousiki ton neron (With the Music of the Water)
Anemos kaftos, loulianos (Burning July Wind)