In 1971, the Municipality of Thessaloniki commissioned a symphonic work commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence from Nicolas Astrinidis (1921–2010), the music director of its Philharmonic and Mixed Chorus ensemble. The composer of three major oratorios on Greek subjects, in particular Saint Demetrios (1962), Astrinidis was also a Diaspora Greek born in Romania—not far away from where Ypsilantis had launched the Revolution of 1821—who saw his native city occupied by Soviet troops in 1940 and his dismembered family seeking shelter in Palestine before settling in postwar Thessaloniki as penniless refugees. After fighting the Nazis on the Libyan front for two years, he himself moved to Paris and pursued an international musical career before joining his parents in Greece in 1965. Family hardship, patriotic fervor, and an international artistic record made Astrinidis the ideal composer of the Symphony “1821”, an hour-long orchestral-choral work tracing modern Greek history from the Fall of Constantinople to the Revolution of 1821.
As the first scholarly engagement with a unique musical tribute to the Revolution of 1821, this paper discusses issues of biography, national identity, Diaspora culture, compositional strategies, and reception. In addition, it presents excerpts from the first electronic edition of the work produced at the Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities (CCARH) at Stanford University.
(Ph.D., M.Phil., M.Mus.), Research Associate, Department of Music, Stanford University, California, USA