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Manolis Kalomiris

(December 14, 1883 - April 3, 1962)

Fanatic demoticist, friend of K.Palamas, 

bearer of  the Wagnerian melodramatic thought

and admirer of the Russian National School "The Five"

Manolis Kalomiris

was one of the most important figures of greek music, according to many

the most important.

Written by Stephanos Katsaros 

Born in Smyrna in 1883, Manolis Kalomiris studied piano and theory of music in Athens, Constantinopoles. From 1901 to 1906 studies composition in Vienna. After Vienna (1906/19010) he lived in Kharkov, Russia, where he teaches theory of music and piano. There he came for the first time in contact and studied the works of the "The Five". After his final return to Greece, he tries through his artistic work and the key positions he held in the music life of Athens (Greek Conservatory, National Conservatory), to consolidate the idea of a

Greek National School.

Close to his great pedagogical work, that marked the music education of the country, Kalomiris leaves behind a rich work as composer.

Among others : five operas, three symphonies, a piano concerto, song cycles for voice and piano or orchestra, piano works, chamber music


In 1919 he was honored by the Greek State with the National Excellence Award in Literature and Arts.

He died in Athens on April 3, 1962, at the age of 79.

The National Music School that Kalomiris envisions is based on the idea of a common line between all Greek composers. Based on material taken from the Greek and Byzantine tradition, the composers shoud write works of classical music based on "greek idioms", embellished by the western classical music.


Some of the main stylistic features of the school are:

  • use of traditional or byzantin melodies and motifs that are not based on western scales (major and minor).

  • use of asymmetric metre signature (such as  7/8, 5/8 etc.)

  • mixed harmonic language, resulting from the connection of different musical modes.

THE DEATH OF THE Valiant woman

symphonic poem in "ballet form"

Written during the German occupation (1943-1945) Kalomiris dedicates the  symphonic poem "The Death of the Vailant Woman" to the young Simone Séaille, a friend of the composer's daughter, who fought at  the French Resistance and was killed by the Germans in a concentration camp. In an interview with Rubini Souli, the conductor Byron Fidetzis says about the piece:

His latest symphonic poem was carries the titel "The Death of the Vailant Woman" and is based on the famous folk song "Fish do not live on land" or as it is widely known "Dance of Zalongos". He wrote it during the german occupation, shocked by the death in a concentration camp of the french sister-in-law of his daughter Krinos, who, like his daughter and son-in-law, took part in the French Resistance. Her sacrifice, reminiscent of that of the women of Zalongos, inspired him to compose the work. "

The work has a  form of free variations based on melodic motifs of the folk song, mentioned above. The melodic motifs are presented incompletely, partially and intermittently in order to avoid a sterile, symphonic reproduction of the song which could easily become a  tastless parody. Through the partial division of the original melodic material, Kalomiris manages to create colourfull variations, connected by almost improvisational passages (eg melismatic passages given mainly to wind instruments on fixed or slightly rhythmic pedal-points, thus mimicking a traditional "folk sound") and framed by clean structures such as, Introduction and Coda.
    The harmonic language of the work is intensely chromatic, obviously influenced by the late german romanticism, making use of many dissonances . Kalomiris enriches the western harmony by using greek modes (see N.10, modulation to Phrygian) thus creating a complex harmonious mixture. The work begins in the key of A, without being clear whether it is major or minor and ends again in the key of A (here major), thus using the traditional technique of a tonal center, regardless of the thousands of modulations and modifications that occur during the entire piece. The use of a tonal center serves as a witness of Kalomiris' commitment to the principles of classical composition, against the currents of his time (modernism, expressionism, etc.).
    What should also be noted is the role of the orchestra. In this work, Kalomiris, as in most of his orchestral works, unfolds his orchestration skills. The aforementioned elements of the harmonic structure of the work, elements that are heterogeneous and conflicting, function homogenously under the artfull pen of the composer. The large augmented chords (see N.2), the direct (abrupt) modulations along with the short tonalizations (see N.8), the non-functional successions of chords as a result of the movement of different voices (see N.16 and N.17) together with the unresolved dissonances, the non-functional bass lines , and the vague Unclear distinction between chord tones and embellishments that govern the whole work, all these elements together communicate with each other and are transformed into a "body of sound" due to the orchestration. Through the use of the large romantic orchestra and the exploitation of all its individual groups, he creates colors and moods to support the choreographic libretto (plot).

   -The work was first performed in 1943, transcribed for piano by Kalomiris, at the Rex, with Loukia Sakellariou as choreographer and leading dancer. In its orchestral form it was first performed by the Athens State Orchestra at the Olympia in 1945. It was conducted by the composer himself. Finally, the work was fully staged by the National Greek Opera, choreographed by Angelos Grimanis, with the composer once more conducting the piece.
By killing one of the enemies who had invaded her village early that morning, the Valiant Woman encourages the rest of the women to fight together with their men. She gets to the front line and fights beside her loved one, being badly wounded. Without letting anybody understand her pain, she fights on, heartening the other women also, until the enemy retreats. She leads the dance of victory together with the rest of the village women, only to sink to the ground, dead. Slowly, her death turns from lament to glorification, and everybody thinks that they can see Liberty rising imperiously on the horizon.***

***[Text by Myrto Economides, from booklet of the CD The Peddler / Rhapsody No. 1 (arr. G. Pierné for orchestra) & No. 2 "Song to the Night" (arr. B. Fidetzis for orchestra) / In St. Luke's Monastery / Minas the Rebel / The Death of the Valiant Woman, 2000, PHORMIGX 111100.]


Giannis Belonis, Manolis Kalomiris and the dark side of the period of the German occupation and the Civil War, Polyphony, vol. 4 (2004), pp. 7-21
Jaklitsch, Nina-Maria, Manolis Kalomiris, Nikos Skalkotas, Charilaos Perpesas-Greek musicians of the twentieth century between the Greek tradition and the “western” modernism ”, in: European Era of Seo. [Τόμοι Α΄ και Β΄], Ὁ⁇ λληνικὸς Κόσμος ἀνάμεσα στὴν Ἀνατολὴ καὶ τὴ Δύση 1453-1981, Τόμος Β΄, Βερολίνο, 1999, σελ. 297-309
Nikolaos Maliaras, The Folk Song in the Music of Manolis Kalomiris. A historical and analytical approach, Athens, Papagrigoriou-Naka Publications, 2001
Nikolaos Maliaras, "Contemporary Painting by Manolis Kalomiris and his time", in Tribute to Manolis Kalomiris, Athens Concert Hall 2002-2003, pp. 6-15.
Nikolaos Maliaras, "Manolis Kalomiris and his contribution to the foundation of the Greek National School", in Tribute to Manolis Kalomiris, Athens Concert Hall 2002-2003, pp. 18-25.
Jim Samson, Music in the Balkans, chapter 12 (pp. 302–331) "Following the Leader: Manolis Kalomiris". BRILL, May 23, 2013.

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