Nikolaos Mantzaros

The first Greek composers in free Eptanisa, lived and worked in the 19th century and brought the awakening Greek Nation in touch with European culture. It was here that the first musical movement in Greece was created: the Eptanesian School of Music. And it is the first time that modern Greek instrumental music was in tune with current European production.Operation of the San Giacomo as a theater in Corfu in 1720 and as an opera since 1733 was one of the main driving forces in the development of music on the island. It was here that the melodrama of a Greek composer was performed for the first time: “Gli amanti confusi, ossia il brutto fortunato” (1791) by Stefanos Pogiagos composer (1790-1820) violinist and teacher of Mantzaros in violin. “The arrival of Odysseus in Phaeacia” (1819) lyrics by Georgios Ricci is described as a ballet with songs and is probably the first opera with a Greek libretto. The operas of Pogiagos are considered lost.Nikolaos Halikiopoulos Mantzaros (1795-1872), composer of our National Anthem, is the driving force behind modern Greek music. He was born the year that Carolos Aurelius Witman, the last Venetian Magistrate of the Ionian Islands, arrived in Corfu.The Philharmonic Society of Corfu was founded on 12 September 1840; it was the first musical institution in Greece, with articles of association and musical academy schedule of studies, and Mantzaros was the soul of the Society and honorary president for life. In his work Mantzaros, who through his studies in Napoli got to know and experience the great Neapolitan school – from Alesandro Scarlati, Gaetano Greco, Francesco Durante, Fedele Fenaroli to his teacher Niccolo Zingarelli – covers and recaps the void between baroque and classical music, which Greek music did not experience due to the Turkish occupation. His National vision was to create a generation of illuminati. Thus, musicians and composers studied with him and continued his educational work throughout the Ionian Islands and mainland Greece as it was getting liberated. Mantzaros taught privately since 1827 in his home from where he continued to teach as a professor of the Philharmonic Society of Corfu after 1840, always free of charge. The educational work of Mantzaros is supplemented with the composition of the first theoretical and musical works in modern Greece and the first ethnic musical research collected in an album with “Popular cantantas of Corfu”.Dionysios Solomos moved permanently to Corfu in December 1828. He had already written the poem Imnos is tin Eleftherian [Hymn to Liberty], which was to become a masterpiece but also an idée fixe for Mantzaros who was composing it throughout his life. There are two finished compositions and many more unfinished ones. The first two stanzas of the first composition are the official National Anthem of Greece. There are testimonies that the first choral version of the Hymn to Liberty by Solomos-Mantzaros was sang by groups of young men at night in cantatas with guitar accompaniment. Italian historian Francesco Cusani, writes in the 1st volume of his memoirs ‘Dalmatia, the Ionian Island and Greece in 1840’, which was published in Milan in 1846, “… on 25 May 1840, at the end of an official dinner hosted by Lord Douglas6, High Chancellor of the Ionian Islands in honor of Queen Victoria, a group of young Cofriotes came and sang with guitar accompaniment, the first stanzas of the Hymn to Liberty”. The first composition of the Hymn, was in 1892-30 for a 4-part male choir with piano accompaniment, mainly in G major. It consists of 25 parts and the score was published in 1873 in London “…paid by of Greek expatriates in England”.The 2nd complete version was in 1842-43. This time it included 46 parts mainly in F major and was again for a 4-part male choir with piano accompaniment. Mantzaros took the composition down by one scale from the previous version, but it was again considered too high for the tenors. However, it is very possible that the composer intended the falsetto, which befits the Ionian Island cantatas. Mantzaros remembered his studies in Napoli with Zingarelli and all counterpoint techniques from Palestrina to Bach are included in this work. The duration is estimated at 2 hours, but it has not been published, recorded or performed in its entirety up to now.Mantzaros composed the first Greek opera. The one-act comic opera Don Crepuscolo (1815), 3 Arias for 4-part male choir and instrument, one in Orthodox rites (1834 or 5), which is often chanted in Agios Spyridonas and two Catholic considered lost, Cantatas, one Te Deum (1830) and David’s Chants. The last two are considered lost. He also composed 12 4-part and 5-part Fugues with piano accompaniment (1851) and Partimenti. The national, cultural and educational work of Mantzaros was continued by his natural and spiritual descendants11: Spyridon Halikiopoulos Mantzaros son of Nicolas, who died very young (1821-1847), Antonios Liveralis (1814-1842) and his brother Joseph Liveralis (1820-1899) composer of the opera “Rigas Feraios”, lyrics by Gerasimos Markoras, Spyridon Xindas (1814-1896) composer of the first surviving greek opera in Greek lyrics “The Parliamentary Candidate) (first performance Corfu 1867 – Athens 14/3/1888), Domenikos Padovas, (1817-1892) close associate of Mantzaros, who composed two operas, three symphonies and four catholic rite chants. In 1870, he was honored by Pope Pius IX with the cross of Saint Sylvester for his services as organist of the Catholic Cathedral of Corfu. The Greek ‘Straus’, Iosif Kaisaris (1845-1932) and his brother Spyridion Kaisaris (1857-1946) and the famous Lampelet family with at least ten noteworthy musicians.


Vivien Lampelet daughter of Napoleon Lampelet, and the Corfiotes Amalia Aspiotis-Genata, Aekaterini Doria Prossalenti, Eleni Lamari, Efrosyni Kapodistria, are the first Greek women composers.

The most internationally recognized Greek composer of the time was Spyridon Samaras (1861-1917), student of Xyndas. He was born in Corfu where he got his first lessons in music, then went to Athens and from 1882 to 1886 he studied composition with Leo Delibes at the Paris Conservatoire. He moved to Milan in 1886 and from there set out to conquer Europe with his music for next 26 years. His ten operas were performed in the greatest European Opera houses. On the occasion of the first modern Olympic Games (1896) he composed the Olympic Anthem, to the poem of Kostis Palamas. He was the first Greek composer whose work was recorded.

The Eptanesian School of Music continued after the generation of Mantzaros, with composers who belong to the school not only because of their ancestry but also for their style, ethos and musical dialect. These are Laurentios Kamilieris 1874 or 5 – 1956) and Alexander Grek (1876-1959). Corfu composer of Maltese descent, who among others has composed 3 operas and 4 operettas, “Myriella” and “Carmelita”. He is a Greek impressionist and his works for piano are kindred to the work of Debussy and of Fauré, while conserving the skill and extended left hand of Chopin. Also Gerasimos Rombotis (1903-1987) A new generation of composers appears in the second half of the 20th century and continues in the 21st century, and their common ancestry can be seen in their distinctive work. The selection of subjects and titles from Corfu for their work, their unaffected melody, their composition of music on the words of Corfiot poets and their warm interest for their birthplace confirms the continuing musical tradition of Corfu up to the present. The second Eptanesian School of Music13 includes renowned composers with significant studies and consistency: Costas Agouridis, Pavlos Ventouras, Spyros Mazia, Spyros Mavropoulos, Georgos Minas, Chrysanthos Mouzakitis, Vaggelis Petsalis. And more are constantly added to the list.

Pavlos Ventouras