Important dates in the life of Kalomiris and of Greece

Important dates in the life of Kalomiris and of Greece



Kalomiris is born in Smyrna on the 14th of December. His parents were Dr. Ioannis Kalomiris from Samos and Maria Hamoudopoulou from Smyrna.

About half the population of Smyrna (today’s city of Izmir, in Turkey) was in those days Greek. Greece itself occupied approximately half the area it covers today (the southern half). Salonica was still part of the Ottoman Empire and had a substantial Turkish population. Large Greek populations were still spread across Asia Minor and the Balkans. The largest concentrations were in the former capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, (today’s city of Istanbul) and in Smyrna. The Greeks held important positions in the ottoman society and distinguished themselves in administration, in the professions and in commerce. Kalomiris was born into this relatively privileged class of well educated, cosmopolitan Greeks.


Death of his father. His uncle, Minas Hamoudopoulos, becomes his guardian.


First piano lessons with Digenis Kapagrossas.


He settles in Athens for a short time and continues piano lessons with Timotheos Xanthopoulos.


The small Kingdom of Greece suffers a humiliating defeat in a brief war with the Ottoman Empire and looses one of its provinces. Kalomiris only 14 at the time will grow into adulthood in the mood of national pessimism that follows the defeat of 97.


Kalomiris moves to Constantinople where he attends the Greek-French Hadjichristou Highschool. His piano instructor, Sophia Spanoudi, motivates his artistic sensibility and introduces him to the poetry of Palamas. Kalomiris will become an ardent admirer of Palamas and will acknowledge him as his spiritual leader and the greatest influence on his life and art.

At the turn of the century, Palamas is Greece’s leading poet and intellectual. His ideology is nationalist but in a liberal, atheist context and within an enlightened cosmopolitan world view. 

Palamas’ powerful evocative poetry is written in the “demotic” (vernacular) language of modern Greece, as opposed to “katharevoussa”, the purist language of the conservatives and of the elite. This question of language will haunt Greece, for nearly a century. It had political associations from the beginning and the victory of the demotic language was not complete and final until the collapse of the colonels junta and the abolition of the monarchy in the 1970s! 


Kalomiris shows an interest in Greek folk songs and shocks his teacher and class by presenting a report in the demotic language.


He ignores his family’s plans to make him a doctor like his father and decides to study music. In August he moves to Vienna where he starts his music studies at the Vienna Conservatory with professors W. Rauch and A. Sturm (piano), H. Gradener (theory and composition) and E. Mantitsevsky (music history). In Vienna he will study closely German music and will become an admirer of Richard Wagner.


Kalomiris composes his first works: ‘Oriental Picture’ for piano and ‘Three songs for voice and piano’.


He completes his music studies in June. In his memoirs he will remember that it was, in Vienna, when he heard for the first time in his life “Sheherazade” by Rimsky-Korsakoff, that he knew for certain that he wanted to be a composer and had learned what kind of composer he wanted to be. He marries Hariklia Papamoschou from Corfu, a fellow student at the conservatory. They move to Kharkov where he is appointed teacher at the Music Lyceum Obolensky. Here he will have the opportunity to study closer the music of the Russian “national school”. 


He reads Palamas’ most important poem, “The Twelve Lays of the Gypsy”, begins a correspondence with the poet and starts writing in “Noumas”, the magazine of the group of liberal intellectuals surrounding Palamas, on the need for a Greek national school of music.

He completes his first orchestral work, the ‘Romeiki (Greek) Suite’. 

(The word “Romeiki” strictly means “Roman”. When Constantine moved the capital of the Roman empire east, the Byzantines continued to call themselves “Romans”. As the empire gradually became more Christian and more Greek, “Romios” came to mean “modern Greek”. It was an important point in Palamas and Kalomiris ideology that classical Greece was too distant to constitute a valid root for a modern Greek culture, hence Kalomiris’ insistence on the term “Romios” as opposed to “Hellene” which was the collective name of ancient Greeks.)

Birth of Kalomiris’ elder son, Yannakis.


Visit to Athens.

Kalomiris meets Palamas on June 11.

First performance of his works in Athens in a concert at the auditorium of the Athens Conservatory. A major scandal is created from his decision to issue the text of his program in the demotic language and not in French as was the established custom at the time. This text is considered by scholars to be the manifesto of the Greek “national school”.

Palamas writes a poem dedicated ‘To the musician Manolis Kalomiris’.


The “Revolution of 1909” brings forward a new liberal leader, Venizelos. He will dominate Greek political life for 3 decades. Kalomiris sees in him the promised “liberator” and becomes his dedicated follower for life.

The play ‘Stella Violanti’ by Xenopoulos is performed with incidental music by Kalomiris.

Birth of Nikos, his second son who will die in early childhood.


He settles permanently, in Athens.

First concert of his symphonic works in the presence of Venizelos who is appointed Prime Minister for the first time.


Appointed professor of piano and theory at the Athens Conservatory.

A new Constitution and a massive programme of social and political reforms is introduced by Venizelos who resists his followers pressure to try to oust the King.


The complete cycle of poems, Magic Herbs, by Palamas, is set to music.

Greece enters the first Balkan War united. Venizelos and King George seem to work in harmony.


Birth of his daughter Krino.

The murder of King George (possibly by German agents who wished to see the pro-German Constantine come to the throne) sets the scene for a conflict between the Prime Minister and the Crown. Venizelos believes that Greece’s interests coincide with those of England and France. The new king is staunchly pro-German.

The second Balkan war ends triumphantly for Greece, which has nearly doubled its area and population. Greece has liberated Salonica and a host of cities in the north, most of the islands in the Aegean and has imposed union with Crete.


First performance of the ‘Quintet with Song’. Overture to Magic Herbs composed.

The Ottoman empire enters World War I on the side of the Germans.


First performance of ‘Magic Herbs’ conducted by Kalomiris himself.

Venizelos wants Greece to join the war on the side of the allies. The King wants Greece to remain neutral. Venizelos resigns and is re-elected. The King forces him to resign a second time, rules by decree and effectively establishes a dictatorship. Greece is bitterly divided into Royalists and Liberals. 


First performance of PROTOMASTORAS (The Master Builder), Kalomiris’ first music drama. Based on a play by Kazantzakis, it is dedicated “To the master builder of modern Greece, Eleftherios Venizelos!”

Greece’s neutrality is violated by both the allies and by the Germans. Greece is in danger of loosing all the gains of the Balkan Wars. A liberal military coup leads to the establishment of a provisional Government under Venizelos, in Salonica, which immediately starts recruiting an army to fight on the side of the allies. The King continues to rule in the south. A thoughtless military intervention by the French, in Athens, leads to direct conflict with royalist forces. Greece is deeply divided. Both Royalists and Liberals feel that they are serving the national interest and accuse each other of treason.


First performance, conducted by himself, of his second opera, ‘Mother’s Ring’, at the Municipal Theatre of Athens.


Kalomiris is appointed Inspector General of Military Music. He begins composing his first symphony, the “Levendia” Symphony.

(The word “levendia” can only very approximately be translated as heroism. It has moral and aesthetic connotations, which are supposed to be specifically Greek, and is usually associated with a brave, handsome and honest young man.)


The Balkan Wars continue, Kalomiris is at the frontline where he starts composing the slow movement of the “Levendia” Symphony ‘The Cemetery at the Mountain Slope’.

He is honoured by the Academy of Athens with the Award of Excellence in Arts and Letters.

He resigns from the Athens Conservatory and founds the Hellenic Conservatory.


First performance of his first symphony, the ‘Levendia Symphony’, at the Herodus Atticus Theatre in Athens, celebrating the liberation of his birthplace, Smyrna, by the Greek army. The audience is so moved by the Finale (Hymn to Victory based on a Byzantine hymn to the victorious virgin Mary) that they rise and listen standing.

The so called “Great Idea” – the establishment of a “Greater Greece” that would include all territories with substantial Greek populations seems within immediate reach.

The Liberals under Venizelos loose the national elections in November.


The Royalist Government leads Greece to defeat in Asia Minor. The Turkish army sacks and burns Smyrna, Kalomiris birth place. The Greeks abandon Asia Minor after 5000 years. More than a million arrive as refugees in mainland Greece. A military coup forces the King to resign , court-martials and executes, against the protests of Venizelos, the royalist Prime Minister and his principal collaborators. A Republic is to be proclaimed soon but the King will eventually return and Greece enters a period of political instability that will last until 1974. The events of that period deeply affect Kalomiris and will decisively influence the rest of his life. Suddenly the “Great Idea” with which he had been so closely associated is a lost cause and belongs to the past.


His ‘Theory of Music’ is published. The tragic murder of his son, Yiannakis, shocks him and the Athenian public.


Gabriel Pierne orchestrates Kalomiris (First) Rhapsody for Piano.


Kalomiris departs from the Hellenic Conservatory and founds the National Conservatory.


Kalomiris moves to Paleon Phaliron, which was then a distant suburb of Athens, as his permanent residence. 


Kalomiris and Lavrangas write an open letter announcing the foundation of the Union of Greek Composers.


First performance of his second symphony by the Orchestra of the Athens Conservatory under Mitropoulos.

Marriage of his daughter Krino with the musician and composer Leonidas Zoras.

A new branch of the Conservatory is founded in Alexandria, Egypt and Kalomiris becomes its Honorary Director.


Kalomiris founds the National Opera Group (Ethnikos Melodramatikos Omilos). The main aim of the Group was to introduce the systematic study of the melodrama in Greece. 103 performances were presented in the first year following its foundation.

He establishes afternoon music classes with affordable tuition for working students.


He completes the ‘Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’.


Kalomiris is elected president of the Union of Greek Composers (1936-45).

In August a military coup supported by the king, establishes a dictatorship, under General Metaxas. Venizelos dies in exile. Kalomiris ignores a royal decree forbidding him to conduct the military band at Venizelos funeral. He is forced to resign as inspector general of the military bands.


First performance of the ‘Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’, of a new version of ‘Romeiki Suite’, of the song cycle ‘From the Lyric Poems of Sikelianos’ and of the symphonic poem ‘In St Luke’s Monastery’.


The ‘Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’ is performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, with Kalomiri’s daughter Krino as the soloist.


He begins writing his memoirs.


‘Mother’s Ring’ is performed with great success in Berlin. 

First performance of the symphonic poem ‘Minas the rebel, a pirate in the Aegean’ under Leonidas Zoras.

Foundation of the National Opera of Greece (Ethniki Lyriki Skini). Two-thirds of the artists who were hired were students and graduates of the National Conservatory.

A surprise Italian attack, on Greece, in October, is repulsed by the victorious Greek army.


Germany joins Italy and Greece is occupied in April. The war brings famine to Athens. Kalomiris’ health obliges him to move from Faliro to the centre of Athens.


Foundation of the Athens State Orchestra  – the first permanent, state funded symphony orchestra of Greece, in cooperation with conductor Filoktitis Economides and with the authorities.


Kostis Palamas dies. Kalomiris sets to music a number of his poems.


Kalomiris is appointed director of the National Opera of Greece.

‘Hestia’ magazine publishes the first part of his memoirs, ‘My life and my Art’. He will never complete his autobiography which stops in 1919.

The Greek civil war begins in December, in Athens.


The German occupation ends. Kalomiris is elected a member of the Academy of Athens.

First performance of the opera ‘Dawn’ with the National Opera of Greece, under Zoras.

Kalomiris’ daughter Krino, is decorated by the French Government for her participation in the French Resistance. Her sister-in-law, Simone Seailles is executed by the Germans during the last days of the war. She is the valiant woman in the symphonic poem ‘Death of the Valiant Woman’ which Kalomiris dedicates to her.


First performance of the ‘Death of the Valiant Woman’ in ballet form under Kalomiris at the Olympia Theatre.


Kalomiris is elected president of the Union of Greek Composers.

President Truman obtains the approval of the US congress for substantial aid to Greece, to forestall a communist take over.


The publication of his work ‘For the Greek Children’ with easy piano pieces, is completed in three parts.

The final defeat of the communists in October, concludes a decade of war, occupation, famine and civil war. Greece is a devastated, poor country.


President of the board of the National Opera of Greece.


First performance of the opera ‘The Shadowy Waters’ under Alec Sherman. Subsequent recording at the BBC.


Visit to Bayreuth following an invitation from Richard Wagner’s grandchildren.


First performance of his third symphony,  ‘Palamas Symphony’, by the Athens State Orchestra under the direction of Andreas Paridis with narrator Thanos Kotsopoulos. 


Kalomiris completes his musical memoirs ‘From the Life and Longings of Captain Lyras’.

He starts composing his last work and opera, ‘Konstandinos Palaiologos’ (The Fall of Constantinople), on a libretto by Nikos Kazantzakis.


The Union of Greek Composers celebrates 50 years of Kalomiris’ artistic activity which coincide with the 75th year of his life. 


He completes ‘Palaiologos’, which he considered his highest artistic achievement and dedicates it to the Greek People.


Manolis Kalomiris dies in Athens on 3 April.

‘Palaiologos’ is performed by the National Opera of Greece under the direction of Andreas Paridis on 12 August.