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Greek Composer Yannis Markopoulos has Died, Aged 82

A pioneering composer, Markopoulos passed away following a long battle with cancer


Yannis Markopoulos played a pivotal role in the history of Greek music, where he inspired a new musical movement combining traditional sounds with classical and modern ones. 

Influenced from a young age by local, classical, and Eastern Mediterranean music — especially from Egypt — his works include art music, orchestral pieces, operas, oratorios, and music for theater and cinema.

Born in 1939 in Heraklion, Crete, Markopoulos grew up in Ierapetra and began learning violin and music theory. In 1956, he entered the Athens Conservatory, studying with composer Georgios Slavos and violin professor Joseph Bustidui. He also attended Panteion University for social and philosophical studies.

In 1963, he was awarded by the Thessaloniki Film Festival for his music in the film Little Venuses. The same year, three of his works were performed by new dance companies. From 1965 and 1984, he also composed music for all the plays presented by the Barba Mitoussis Puppet Theater.

When a dictatorship was imposed on Greece in 1967, Markopoulos traveled to London, where he studied with English composer Elisabeth Lutyens. While in the UK, he wrote prolifically, producing works that were performed by the London Concertante Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Additionally, he composed the music for the National Theatre of England’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, directed by David Jones. In 1969, he returned to Athens to contribute his works to the march for the restoration of democracy in Greece.

In 1976, Markopoulos wrote the theme for the BBC television series Who pays the Ferryman? The award-winning music topped the British Hit-Parade chart for months and offered him international fame and recognition.



In the following years, Markopoulos was given concert invitations across New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Stockholm, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Naples, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Munich, Frankfurt, Brussels, London, and Russia.

By the 1980s he was touring Australia in a concert series featuring guest artists who had accompanied him, including singers Dimitra Galani and Charalambos Garganourakis, plus actress Vassiki Lavina, whom he married in 1980.

Prior to his death, Markopoulos was placed in the Intensive Care Unit of the Athens General Hospital in May 2023 after complications from battling cancer for the past year.

“Words can only be ‘lamented’ for the loss of composer Yannis Markopoulos,” said Greece’s New Democracy President and former Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. “A blow to our culture, which loses a loyal servant, but also for our society and his beloved Crete, which loses a noble figure.”

“It is with sadness that we announce [Markopoulos’ death] after a hard battle with cancer,” his family wrote. “The musical soul of Greece has been silenced. But, he will remain alive in our memory, through his songs, which were sung and will be sung by generations and generations of Greek men and women.”

Our condolences to Mr. Markopoulos’ family, friends, and colleagues.

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