Theodorakis: Zorbas Ballet (CD review)

Also, Adagio for Solo Flute; 3 Pieces from Carnaval. Charles Dutoit, Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra. Decca 475 6130.

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:


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa