I do not claim to know a great deal about Greek film music or indeed any of the composers that work in the Greek film industry. I do however know that I like many Greek film scores. Manos Hajidakis, Vangelis and Mikis Theodorakis are names that loom large in both Greek and world cinema but it is Theodorakis that instantly springs to mind when thinking of Greek cinema. Yes its true to say that many would straight away say ZORBA THE GREEK when this composers name is mentioned, I however think of PHAEDRA, THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT, TITO and most of all Z. In my opinion his score for Z is one of his best, I remember getting the original CBS album back in 1969/70. I had been looking at it along with THE WILD BUNCH and CHE and I and my cousin who also liked film music would refer to them as the BIG three because they were quite expensive albums. I also remember when the score won the Oscar for best original score, the Golden statue being accepted on the composers behalf by someone (who,s name I cannot recall) when asked by the host of the Oscars where the composer was, he was told that he was in jail. Which I think was a result of being involved with Z, but don’t quote me on that. I suppose that it would be impossible to release an expanded original version of this score, because the two vocals by Theodorakis on the album were in fact smuggled out of Greece to be included on the CBS release and I think the actual tapes might have been seized by the authorities. The CBS album I think was a re-recording of the score specifically undertaken for the album release, but again don’t quote me on that. The score was finally issued on to compact disc in 2001 and then re-issued in 203 it contained the exact same running order as the CBS album.
Z was based on the novel by Vassili Vassilikos and produced and directed by Costa Gavras with whom Theodorakis collaborated a great deal. The score is filled with dramatic and pulsating musical passages which are driving and powerful as in the opening O ADONIS, the composer utilising the traditional sound of his homeland in the form of the bouzouki within the composition and combining this sound with proud sounding brass and rhythmic percussion that is supported by harpsichord and further embellished by the adding of more bouzouki. This is an impressive and tantalising piece that is filled with infectious and haunting thematic material. Track number 2, is the wistfully beautiful and beguiling TO YELASTO PEDI, bouzouki again is utilised and supported and enhanced by romantic and light strings. Track number 3, has always been a favourite of mine, Theodorakis seems to just bring everything into the mix in LA COURSE DE MANUEL (CHASE) a driving up-tempo percussive background acting as the foundation to organ, electric guitars and strings which create a sense of urgency and tension.
Track number 4, TO PALICARI ECHI KAIMO is a vocal performed by Maria Farandouri, backed by bouzouki and percussion again this is one of the many highlights of this short but rewarding soundtrack. For track number 5 the composer creates a more modern sounding cue, CAFÉ ROCK is a kind of rock/pop instrumental with fuzzy sounding electric guitars performing over a mid tempo percussive backing. The theme TO YELASTO PEDI returns in track number 6, bouzouki and strings open the cue the strings then act as support for a bouzouki solo where we are treated to a more down tempo and relaxed version of the theme. A mournful sounding viola takes on the theme giving it a deeply emotive sound enhanced by a childlike sounding chime which intrudes a touch of melancholy into the proceedings. Track number 7. BATUCADA is a purely percussive track, kettle drums forming the lead and being punctuated and supported by bongo and shakers. Track 8 is also a wonderful cue another version of TO YELASTO PEDI it is performed by solely by bouzouki and just oozes with the sound that we all associate with Greece. TO YELASTO PEDI returns in track number 9, but this time a very different arrangement of the theme, percussion and organ are the background to cello which performs the main part of the theme. Track number 10, PIOS DEN MILA YIA TI LAMBRI is a martial sounding piece with timpani forming the cues backbone which is then joined by horns and harpsichord, in fact one could be fooled into thinking this might come from a spaghetti western such is the sound and style achieved by Theodorakis. The track builds and builds repeating its haunting and infectious core theme. Horns taking it in turns with harpsichord to give their renditions of it. Track number 11 is THE FINALE again TO YELASTO PEDI is heard the composer slowly but surely building the composition with electric bass guitar and then horns and strident and patriotic sounding strings which are supported and swept along by a mid tempo beat. Tracks 12 and 13 are both vocals and are the tracks I mentioned that had been smuggled out of Greece to be included on the album we hear Theodorakis singing and playing piano on TO PALICARI ECHI KAIMO and SAFTI TI GITONIA. This is still a soundtrack that I adore, it was released at a time when film scores contained real themes and melodies, it was also at a time when things did not seem so rushed and complicated, but maybe they were and we did not realise it. Z is score that once heard will be returned to many times. A must have.