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Dimitris Dragatakis first stepped on the path of his long career in music at a young age in Epirus when he began learning the violin, and later continued his studies in Athens at the National Conservatoire. Music was and remained his main focus in life and this passion informed all of his important decisions, from childhood when he constructed and played a corn leaf violin to the twenty-one year period he played viola for the National Opera House, on to composing his String Quartet no. 7, a piece he held in his hands hours before his passing. The sound of stringed instruments was the ideal vehicle for Dimitris Dragatakis to express his thoughts and his string quartets are his most complete collection of musical works. Although he only started to write music regularly in the fourth decade of his life, the mind of Dragatakis was always that of a composer; referring to himself as a “ruminant being” goes some way to explaining his late start. He gathered knowledge and experience, images and words incapable of being expressed or described, and memories enough to fill another lifetime, and all these poured into his compositions.


Dimitris Dragatakis was born in the village of Platanousa in Epirus, Greece, on January 22nd, 1914. His parents, Leonidas Dragatakis and Eleni Zarkada, belonged to a generation which fully preserved the folk music tradition as an element of their daily lives.

Dimitris Dragatakis, the eldest son of a family of seven children, showed keen interest from a very young age in the natural sounds and the musical traditions of his birthplace. The perpetual drone of the river, Arahthos, situated at the base of the village, the echo of herd bells in the surrounding mountains, the improvised musical instruments along with the musical tradition of the area, critically sensitized him to these sounds and shaped his musical perception.

Following the completion of his basic education in his hometown as well as a series of violin lessons for one year in neighboring loannina, Dimitris Dragatakis' father took the initiative to take him to Athens in 1928 at the age of 14 along with his brother, Nikolaos, in order to study music at the National Conservatoire. Manolis Kalomiris, founder and director of the National Conservatoire, recognized his talent but at the same time understood the financial difficulties the brothers were facing and provided the primary aid and support in the completion of their studies. Dimitris Dragatakis studied violin under G. Psillas and he graduated in June 1938 receiving the Degree in Violin with Distinction, unanimously, as well as a prize from the Administration of the Conservatoire. Upon receiving the Degree he began teaching violin at the central National Conservatoire until 1947 and at annexes of the Conservatoire until 1941. At the same time he continued his studies in the Higher Theory of Music (in the class of Michalis Vourtsis) and received the Diploma of Harmony in June 1940 with Distinction and a prize. M. Kalomiris prompted Dragatakis to turn his focus on the viola and in May 1944 he was hired by the orchestra of the National Opera House, where M. Kalomiris was the Artistic Director. He worked there until 1947. In 1946 he married

lro Aivaliotis, who was also a violinist.

In 1949 he began lessons in Composition, Counterpoint and Fugue with L. Zoras and M. Kalomiris at the National Conservatoire from where he received the corresponding Diploma in June 1955. Additionally, from 1949 until 1957 he again teaches violin at the National Conservatoire. From 1951 he began his second period of collaboration with the orchestra of the National Opera House which continued until 1969. In February 1952, Dragatakis becomes a member of the Greek Composers Union.

In 1977 a new collaboration between Dragatakis and the National Conservatoire begins, but now as a renowned composer, in the capacity of Professor of Higher Theoretical Studies, Superintendent of the School of Higher Theoretical Studies (1983-1995), member of the Artistic Commission (1983-2001) and of the Board of Directors of the Conservatoire (1985-2001). Since the spring of 1977 he also participated on the Board of Directors of the Greek Composers Union. In 1980 Dragatakis is designated as a member of the Special Concert Fund Organization (E.T.O.S.) of the Athens State Orchestra, a position he held until his death.

In 1995 Dragatakis becomes the Vice President of the Greek Composers Union (G.C.U.) until March 2001, when he is unanimously declared as the lifetime Honorary President of the Union. In 1997 he is presented with the "Maria Kallas" award from the National Greek Radio (the 3rd Program) and two years later with the award, "In Honor of G. Papaioannou" from the Academy of Athens. From February 1999 until his death, he serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Opera House as a representative of the Greek Composers Union.

Dimitris Dragatakis died suddenly on December 18th, 2001, amidst his creative activities.



Dimitris Dragatakis was a very productive composer. He wrote music for most of the musical genres, with the total number surpassing 140 works. His first compositions are dated to before 1940 and his last being in 2001, the year of his death. His first dated work was the String Quartet No.1 in 1957, which had already carried the seal of maturity in composition. However, the fact that he began composing at a fairly older age (40-42 years of age) and he had already settled in a specific attitude towards life, allowed him to preserve his Greek entity amidst the pioneering trends of the time. Since 1958, Dragatakis operates more intensely as a composer and composes regularly, of which many masterpieces are distinguished in National Competitions. He also monitors, through every possible means (radio, concerts, lectures), all the contemporary tendencies in composition which gradually lead him to approach contemporary musical trends.

Even though his initial studies were alongside L. Zoras and M. Kalomiris, he did not identify himself with the style that was representative of the National Music School. There are only few elements of this style observed in a small number of his primary compositions. On the contrary, he was a self-taught composer; the effects of the music in the region of his birthplace, the contemporary musical trends of his time (the musical pioneering of the 60's and 70's) and primarily his own personal perception of the art of music, are all the elements which essentially shaped his creative language.

The significance of Dragatakis' work is independent of the number of his works in itself or the number of distinctions he received during his lifetime. The acceptance and recognition his music gained is distinctly connected to the specific characteristics of the composer himself. Dragatakis was a modern composer, who embraced the messages of his time and expressed them through his music. He was also a composer deeply rooted in his Greek heritage, who constantly included the Greek folk musical traditions in his compositions and particularly the folk music of Epirus, the region of his birthplace. Finally, he was a humanitarian composer, who aspired for art to approach the average man and not only to address the musical "elite".

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Several of his works are distinguished in Panhellenic Competitions: String Quartet no.1 (1957): Honorable Mention in the First National Competition of Composition of the Greek Composers Union {1958), Symphony no.1 (1959): 2nd Prize (category of symphonies) in the Panhellenic Competition of Composition of Serious Music of the Greek Radio Institution (G.I.R.) (1962), String Quartet no.3 (1960): 2nd Prize (category of chamber music) in the Panhellenic Competition of Composition of Serious Music of G.I.R. (1962), Trio for Oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1962): 1st Prize (unanimously) A' Panhellenic Composition Competition of the Greek Composers Union "M. Kalomoiri Prize" (1964), "Ulysses and Nafsika" - Ballet Suite no.2 (1964): p t Prize in the Music Competition of the Panhellenic Ballet Competition, organized by the Greek Ballet theatre, the Touring Club and the magazine, "Tahidromos" (1965), Symphony no.S (1979-80): p t Prize (category of symphonies) of the A' Panhellenic Composition Competition of Art Music from the Ministry of Culture (1981), Symphony no.6 (1989): 3rd Prize in the Competition of Symphony Compositions under the auspice of the Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Athens, with the theme of

National Paligenesis (1991).

In August 1988 the first honorary event for the composer, Dimitris Dragatakis, takes place and is organized by the Cultural Society of Platanousa, his hometown. In addition, in June 1988, a Commemorative Medal is presented to the composer and his wife for their participation in the National Resistance. There are tens of other honorary events that follow until today: Municipality of Nikaia (1991), French Institute of Athens - Greek Composers Union - Society of "M. Kalomiris" (1992), Society of Recognized Professors of Conservatoires (2001), Athens Concert Hall (2001), magazine Polyfonia (2002), National Orchestra of Athens (2002), the magazine of Greek Composers Union "Mousikis Polytonon" (2006-7), etc. The year 2014 was declared by the Greek Composers Union and in collaboration with the Society of Friends of D. Dragatakis as the year of Dimitris Dragatakis", due to the 100 year anniversary of his birth. Many different agencies enthusiastically responded and organized events dedicated to his life and work throughout 2014 which included: Goethe Institute, Athens Concert Hall, Municipality of Northern Tzoumerka-Epirus, Municipality of Athens, Greek Musical Feast in Athens and Thessaloniki, etc.

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Dimitris Dragatakis belongs to those artists, who with faith in their creative instincts and tireless effort, overcome any adversity and realize their vision, often against all odds, therefore becoming a genuine model

for future generations.

Within the same context, lies Dragatakis' deep sensitization towards the new generation of composers. Believing creativity flourishes from the individual naturally and that essentially composition cannot be taught, being himself a "self-taught" composer, Dragatakis always encouraged his students to seek, and penetrating to reach a particular personal style, directly related to their era and its needs. As an avid believer and fighter of freedom of thought and expression, he always supported anything new and pioneering, with the only condition being continuation and consistency. With these characteristics he became a model of a self-luminous artist; he not only incarnated his vision of a musical creation free from rules and systems and focused on the understandable expression of space and time, but he also showed the way for the younger generations of composers, who with faith in their goals can pursue their artistic self-realization, but always with a humanitarian focus.

The key element of Dimitris Dragatakis' contribution to Greek music lies in the strict consistency of his worldview and the high caliber and quality of his creations. Furthermore, in his perception and the lessons in life and his artistic career lie the possibility of renegotiating our own values and goals, not only individually but also socially.

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Dragatakis: his life and works | Greek Radio 3rd Programme interview with Dr. Magdalini Kalopana
Δημήτρης Δραγατάκης

Many thanks to Dr Magdalini Kalopana for the biography notes, Mandy Dragatakis for the translation of the notes, and Kelly Dragatakis for editing the translation which were taken from the Dimitris Dragatakis: String Quartets CD.

Kalopana, Magdalini. Dragatakis, Mandy (trans.). Dragatakis, Kelly (ed.). Biography liner notes to Dimitris Dragatakis: The String Quartets, New Hellenic Quartet, IRIDA 022, CD, 2019.

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