One of the most moving musical experiences I ever had was back in ’72 at Binyanei HaUma in Jerusalem. I also remember running like a; well, like a kid across the magnificent Agam Hall (look at picture #7–I’m still looking for a better shot). It was the first time I had ever seen an Agam and this one is pretty spectacular. I got the feeling of something large and quite dramatic would happen with that introduction.
But that’s not the focus here. It was the music inside the auditorium that I could not want to lose. The concert was led by Mikis Theodorakis. And no, I had never heard of him before. I had never seen Zorba and I really wasn’t familiar with his music or really anything Greek at all. I had heard of the Holocaust; that was important in my development as a Jew. And this giant of a man came to perform his music in solidarity with the Israeli people. His Ballad of Mauthausen, inspired by poems written by his friend Iakovos Kambanellis–oh let me let him speak for himself:
A good friend of mine, the poet Iacovos Kambanellis, was a prisoner in Mauthausen during World War II. At the beginning of the sixties, he wrote his memories of this time under the title of “Mauthausen”. In 1965, he also wrote four poems on the subject and gave me the opportunity to set them to music. I did this with much pleasure, firstly because I liked the poetry of the texts, and secondly because I was myself locked up during the Nazi occupation in Italian and German prisons, but mainly because this composition gives us the chance to remind the younger generation of history, that history that must never be forgotten.
First and foremost, of course, the Mauthausen Cantata is addressed to all those who suffered under Fascism and fought against it. We must keep the Nazi crimes continually in our minds, because that is the only guarantee and the only way to assure that they are not repeated. And we can see every day that the ghost of Fascist is far from being laid. It seldom shows its real face, but Fascist cultures and mentalities exist all over the world. For us, who had to live through this time of horror, the most important task is to protect our children against this peril.
The singer who performed these songs, Maria Farantouri, was also beyond words breathtakingly heartbreakingly beautiful. You can hear for yourself in these clips that I found of her at her website of the songs from the Ballad of Mauthausen.
If you’re not crying when you hear these, well, then you’re just not me.
So why am I bringing this back into my memory and imposing it upon you, dear readers? I will quote the whole article so you won’t miss a thing.
February 9, 2011
ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — Mikis Theodorakis, the Greek composer who wrote the music for the film “Zorba the Greek,” said in a television interview that he is an “anti-Semite and anti-Zionist.”
Theodorakis, 86, a hero in Greece, also said in the interview on Greece’s High channel that “everything that happens today in the world has to do with the Zionists.” He added that “American Jews are behind the world economic crisis that has hit Greece also.”
The composer, a member of the Greek Communist Party for 60 years, once was a supporter of Israel but gradually became a major critic. He has gone from criticizing Israel to making anti-Semitic remarks and holding anti-Semitic positions.
In 2003, Theodorakis declared that “Jews are at the root of all evil.” When the Greek Jewish community reacted strongly to his statement he apologized, but nothing really changed.
Oddly, during the television interview he said that “I’m an anti-Semite but I love Jews.”
Theodorakis criticized Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, who the composer says is a persona non-grata in Greece due to his “war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza.”
In the interview, Theodorakis had a warning for the Greek people.
“We are in danger. In a few days the Zionists will gather in Greece for a conference,” he said, referring to the visit by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which began Tuesday.
Okay, so let’s call him a musical genius with a very short memory or a very twisted sense of reality.
And let’s be honest; both.