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Corfu Music - From Opera times to philharmonic orchestras.
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CORFU MUSIC

In Corfu, there flourishes a long-standing musical tradition going back to the time when Seven Islands were a Venetian dominion. It was thus natural that Corfu too should adopt Western musical styles and trends.

The Venetians introduced opera to Corfu when they converted local “Loggia” into a theatre (San Giacomo), the first in Greece in modern times. Here opera performances started in 1733 and continued under French and British rule, and for several years after union with Greece. 

  

Nikolaos Chalikiopoulos-Mantzaros (1795-1872) founded the first modern school of music in Greece, during the British Protectorate. Greeks universally honour him, as the composer of the Greek National Anthem, for it was he who set to music in 1830 the ‘Hymn to Liberty’ by the poet Dionysos Solomos. Mantzaros composed 14 symphonies and   other music both religious and secular.  

 Mantzaros trained a great number of composers and musicians, among them, Spyros Xyndas (1814-1896), who composed the first Greek opera ‘The Candidate’.

 Spyros Samaras (1861-1917) is the most distinguished Corfiot composer. He is considered one of the founders of the contemporary School of Italian opera. He wrote nine operas, which were performed in the principal theatres of Italy and Germany. Samaras composed the Olympic Hymn to lines by the poet Kostis Palamas.

 The two brothers Napoleon and George Lambelet hold a special position among Corfiot composers. The former composed Greek popular songs and the latter, Greek national folk songs.

 Among the Corfiot composers of the nineteenth century we mention Leonidas Albanas, two brothers Anthony (1814-1842) and Joseph (1820-1899) Liberali, Joseph (1846-1922) and Spyridon (1857-1946) Kaisaris, who were the first to organize military brass bands in Greece, and Alexandros Grek (1876-1959).

 The first music institution in Corfu and in the whole of modern Greece was founded on the 12th of September 1840, under the title of the Philharmonic Society of Corfu (called the ‘Old Philharmonic’). More recent ones are called ‘Mantzaros Philharmonic Society’ founded in 1890 and ‘Capodistrias Philharmonic Union’ founded in 1980. The main purpose of the three Corfiot Philharmonic Societies is to provide young men and women with free tuition in instrumental music.

 Corfu also possesses a School of Music, founded in 1894, where a number of classical instruments are taught. There are also three choral societies, two of them founded in modern times. Municipality of Corfu has recently founded a Symphony Orchestra with Choir.

Bibliography: STAMATOPOULOS, N.: Old Corfu, History and Culture,
K. Mihalas s.a., Athens, 1993

KOSTIS PALAMAS


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