Obituary: Leading Greek Composer Yannis Markopoulos Dies, Aged 84

By Logan Martell

On June 10, 2023, famed Greek composer Yannis Markopoulos passed away at the age of 84.

Born in Heraklion, on the island of Crete, in 1939, Markopoulos was influenced musically at an early age by not just the Byzantine liturgy and traditional Cretan music, but by the sound of detonating landmines following World War II. He joined the Athens Conservatoire at the age of 17, furthering his studies in composition under Yiorgos Sklavos, and violin under Joseph Bustidui.

At 24, Markopoulos was awarded the Music Prize of the International Thessaloniki Film Festival for his work on the Niko Koundouros film “Young Aphrodite.” After fleeing the military dictatorship in Greece in 1967, he arrived in London, where he would compose numerous works such as the secular cantata “Illios o Protos,” symphonic piece “Chroismoi,” as well as a commission for National Theatre Company’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

After returning to Athens in 1969, Markopoulos led a new wave of music that blended classical style with Greek instrumentation and influences, becoming a prominent voice in the public demand to restore democracy as he worked with numerous university students and local artists. He married Vassiliki Lavina in 1980, with their daughter Eleni born one year later; following this, Markopoulos focused n family life, but continued to compose works, and founded the Palintonos Armonia Orchestra in 1987.

Markopoulos was laid in state in the chapel of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, and buried in the Papagou cemetery.