Giorgos Sakallieros

Dimitri Mitropoulos’s Passacaglia, Intermezzo e Fuga (1924): Introducing Musical Modernism in Greece

The introduction of atonality and dodecaphony in Greek art music was initiated by Dimitri Mitropoulos, between 1924-27, with three consecutive works: Passacaglia, Intermezzo e Fuga for piano (1924), 14 Invenzioni for voice and piano (1925-26), and Ostinata in tre parti for violin and piano (1926-27) – the latter being the first work by a Greek composer in which twelve-tone technique was systematically incorporated. The origins of such a creative reform, abruptly divergent from the late romantic, impressionistic, and selective, nationalistic tendencies Mitropoulos had mainly been expressing until 1920, can be found in his three-year sojourn in Berlin, where the young pianist and aspiring composer was associated with and influenced by the progressive musical circles of Busoni and, possibly, Schoenberg.
This paper focuses on Mitropoulos’s Passacaglia, Intermezzo e Fuga, and its aim is twofold. First, an analytical approach is applied in order to elucidate the innovative structural elements that constitute each movement of the work. Emphasis is given to the linear pitch progression, intervallic symmetries, chordal patterns, chromaticism, contrapuntal elements and the application of baroque forms within an atonal musical language. This is followed by an exegetical commentary, which discerns the ideological and stylistic elements Mitropoulos adopted from the progressive cultural background of inter-war Berlin, Busonian ‘New Classicality’ and Second Viennese School expressionism. The impact of those influences in the Athenian musical life of the mid- and late 1920s and the establishment of an indigenous musical modernism by Mitropoulos are also explored.