DIMITRIS DRAGATAKIS (1914 - 2001)
The Greek composer Dimitris Dragatakis was born on 22 January 1914 in Platanousa, a remote, mountain village in Epirus, and died in Athens at the age of 87 on 18th December 2001. His musical interest was obvious from a very early age, using what nature provided, such as leaves and stalks, to fashion instruments. Later he studied music formally at the National Conservatory of Athens, with an interruption during World War II and the ensuing civil war, completing his studies in 1955. For many decades he played the viola in the orchestra of the Greek National Opera and taught violin and music theory at the National Conservatory.
In the 1950s he took up musical composition systematically, creating from that time to the end of his life more than 130 instrumental, vocal, scenic and electronic works, with the main body of his musical output consisting of orchestral and chamber music. He received numerous awards and prizes for his work, the first being in 1958 from the Greek Composers’ Union, followed by many others, such as the Maria Callas Award from the Third Programme of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation in 1997 and the prestigious G.A. Papaioannou Award from the Academy of Athens in 1999.
In March 2001 he was appointed lifelong Emeritus President of the Greek Composers’ Union, having served as Vice-President for the previous six years. The works of Dragatakis have been performed in Greece and abroad, and many compositions of his have been published and recorded.
Dimitris Dragatakis studied music theory under Leonidas Zoras and Manolis Kalomiris, both composers who belong to the Greek National School of Composition. Nevertheless his musical language was formed independently of his teachers, based mainly on two elements: his close relationship with the Greek musical tradition of his birthplace and his personal interest in the musical trends of the mid-twentieth century. More specifically, Dragatakis has combined selective elements of the musical traditions of Epirus (pentatonic scales, pedal notes, glissandos, and other elements) with the contemporary music of his age (free atonality, plain forms and rhythmic ostinatos, new instrumental combinations and sound effects, all derived mainly from post-modernism and minimalism). In this way a style of musical writing modern in concept but traditional in origin was gradually formed, establishing a new relationship with Greek musical tradition, unlike that of the Greek National School of Composition. As a whole the music of Dimitris Dragatakis is both simple and complex, modern and traditional, dramatically expressive and remarkably introverted.