Almost everyone of a certain age is familiar with the music from the 1964 movie Zorba the Greek, starring Anthony Quinn. What people may not know is that the music’s composer, Mikis Theodorakis, has spent the last fifty-odd years writing symphonic music and popular songs or that he has become practically the national composer of Greece or that he put together a wonderful ballet suite from the Zorba soundtrack. This Decca recording corrects some of those lapses.
The centerpiece of the album is an extended excerpt from Zorbas Suite, spelled curiously without an apostrophe. Charles Dutoit, one of the most suave and sophisticated conductors in the world today, treats Theodorakis’s music in the same way he would treat the music of Ravel or Debussy, and he imparts to it a grace and refinement that is missing in the more boisterous rendition heard in the movie itself. If there is any drawback to the disc, it’s that Decca or Dutoit or whomever has chosen to give us only selecte scenes from the second half of the ballet, Part Two, about thirty minutes’ worth. This is where the most celebrated music appears, to be sure, but it would have been welcome on a CD capable of holding up to seventy-nine or so minutes to hear more of the complete ballet.
What we do get is a combination of the unfamiliar, the familiar, and the super-familiar. Undoubtedly, “Marina” is the most poignant, and, of course, “Zorba’s Dance” is the most vigorous. But Dutoit presents all of it, as I say, in a most graceful style. I daresay you have never heard “Zorba’s Dance” executed in the sheer grandeur of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. It’s quite compelling.
The companion pieces are also of interest: the Adagio for Solo Flute, String Orchestra, and Percussion and “3 Pieces” from Carnaval, both done by Dutoit with the Philharmonia Orchestra. But why not have used that additional ten or fifteen minutes for more of Zorba? In any case, the music is beautiful, and the sonics are typical of Decca’s work, especially in Montreal. The orchestra sounds a bit plumper, plusher, and smoother than it probably sounds in person, but it suits the mood of the music nicely. In fact, the whole album is nice; I just wanted more.
To hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here: