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Corfu Musical Tradition, Literature, and Intellectuals

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Last updated on November 19th, 2023 at 03:38 pm

Musical Tradition in Corfu

Esplanade Square from google earth
Esplanade Square from google earth

There is a huge long-lasting musical tradition in Corfu.

The city today has three main philharmonic societies. The Old Philharmonic, the Philharmonic of Mantzaros, and the Philharmonic of Kapodistrias, whose orchestras often give excellent concerts.

In many villages, there are also bands, and on certain days they all play in Corfu Town to loud cheers from their supporters.

The musical tradition was influenced by Italy and many artists created their music schools with classical influences.

Is the so-called Ionian School of Music divided into two periods? The first until 1870 and the second until the early 20th century.

In Greece, Ionian School was finally overthrown by the so-called National School, created by the “Germanists” Georgios Nazos and Manolis Kalomiris.

The Ionian School of Music

The Ionian School of Music is a significant musical movement that emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the Ionian Islands, including Corfu, as well as the nearby mainland regions of Epirus and Western Greece. The movement was characterized by the fusion of Byzantine, Venetian, and Western European musical traditions, resulting in a unique and innovative style of music.

The Ionian school includes a large number of important musicians and composers, of the first and second periods.

The founders of the Ionian School were a group of composers and musicians who were trained in both Byzantine and Western music. One of the most well-known figures of the Ionian School was Spyridon Xyndas, who is often considered the father of modern Greek music. Xyndas was a composer, conductor, and music teacher who was born in Corfu and played a key role in the development of the Ionian School.

Other notable figures of the Ionian School include Nikolaos Mantzaros (1795-1872), who composed the music for the Greek national anthem and is considered the founder of the Ionian School of Music, and Pavlos Carrer, who is considered one of the greatest composers of Greek operas.

The music of the Ionian School was characterized by its use of Western musical forms, such as sonatas and operas, combined with traditional Greek musical elements, such as the use of modes and rhythms found in Byzantine chant. The Ionian School was instrumental in the development of a modern Greek musical identity and played a significant role in the cultural and intellectual life of Greece during the 19th century.

Today, the legacy of the Ionian School can be seen in the continued use of traditional Greek musical elements in contemporary Greek music. The movement also continues to inspire and influence musicians and composers in Greece and around the world.

Other Greek-born Ionian musicians were the Corfiot George Lambellet and Cefalonian Dionysios Lavragas. Members of both the Ionian School and the “National School”.

They were in constant quarrels with “Germanist” Kalomiris who accused them of the Ionian music being related to the Italian.

Corfiot and Ionian Islands Musicians

It is worth mentioning some musicians.

From Corfu

Domenikos Padovas (1817-1892), Spyros Xindas (1814-1896), and Spyros Samaras (1861-1917).
Eduardo, Louis, George, and Napoleon Lambellet are members of the large Lambellet family.

Other composers were Joseph Liveralis (1820-1899), Leonidas Alvanas (1823-1881), Joseph Caesaris (1845-1923), Spyridon Caesaris (1859-1946), Dimitrios Andronis (1866-1918), Sotirios Kritikos (1888-1945), and Alexandros Grek (1876-1959).

From Zante (Zakynthos)

Pavlos Karrer (1829-1896), Frangiskos Domeniginis (1809-1874), and Dionysios Viscardis (1910-1999).
Suzana Nerantzi from Zakynthos was a great woman pianist and student of Mantzaros in Corfu.

From Kefalonia

Dionysios Lavragas (1864-1941), Antiochos Evangelatos (1903-1981), and Spyridon Spathis (1876-1959) from Sami island.

From Ithaka

Dionysios Rodotheatos (1849-1892).


Antonios Kapnisis (1813-1885), George Lambiris (1833-1889), Lavrentios Kamilieris (1878-1956), Georgios Axiotis (1875-1924), and Georgios Sklavos (1886-1976).

Corfu Literature and Corfiot Intellectuals

The island’s rich cultural history has been the inspiration for a number of literary works. Corfu’s literary tradition continues to this day, with many writers drawing inspiration from the island’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.

Ioannis Kapodistrias was a politician who, for several years, served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia. He was a descendant of a noble family.

From his position, he was involved in many European political affairs, including the constitutional reform of Switzerland, before accepting the responsibility to become the first governor of modern Greece.

Nikolaos Mantzaros was another noble, musician, and composer of the Greek national anthem. He was the major representative of the so-called Ionian School of Music.

Dionysios Solomos our national poet was born in Zakynthos(Zante) and lived in Corfu for the last 30 years of his life.

Spyros Samaras, another musician was the composer of the Olympic anthem. Yes, the one played during the opening and closing ceremonies of every Olympics.

The famous Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi lived much of his life on the island, as did poets like Gerasimos Markoras, Lorenzos Mavilis, Andreas Kalvos, and Iakovos Polylas.

All above were members of the Ionian School of Literature.

A former Greek prime minister was Corfiot George Theotokis, whilst his relative Nikolaos Theotokis became archbishop of Russia.

The important Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and St Filomena were born here.

The unforgettable actor Nikos Kourkoulos originates from Corfu. Also, Albert Cohen and the singers Vicky Leandros and Nana Mouskouri were born here.

There are hundreds of others not mentioned.

Even Giacomo Casanova spent much of his life in Corfu but finally was forced to leave as he was involved in a scandal creating an affair with the young wife of the Venetian proveditore.

Musical Tradition in Corfu - San Giacomo theater
Musical Tradition in Corfu – San Giacomo Theater

Greek writers

With writers and poets such as the prominent figure of Dionysios Solomos from Zakynthos (1798-1857), who lived for 30 years in Corfu.

And many others such as Aristotelis Valaoritis from Lefkada, Andreas Laskaratos and Ioulios Typaldos from Lixouri, Gerasimos Markoras from Kefalonia, Iakovos Polylas from Corfu, Georgios Terchetis, and Andreas Kalvos from Zakynthos.

The term “Eptanissian School” was founded by the great Greek poet Kostis Palamas.

Kostis Palamas introduced the literary consciousness and the rivalry between the Dimotiki and Katharevousa. Two forms of the modern Greek language.

One of the main features of the Ionian School was the use of Dimotiki in Poetry.

One of the most well-known is the Greek poet and philosopher Angelos Sikelianos, who lived on the island in the early 20th century. Sikelianos was a leading figure in the Greek literary world and was a pioneer of the “new poetry” movement.

Foreign writers lived in Corfu

But also many non-Greek writers contributed to the Corfu literature, perhaps the most well-known is Lawrence Durrell, who lived on the island for several years in the 1930s and 1940s.

Durrell’s most famous work is “The Alexandria Quartet,” a series of four novels that are set in Alexandria, Egypt, but draw heavily on his experiences in Corfu.

Other notable writers who have lived on the island include Henry Miller, who wrote “The Colossus of Maroussi” while staying in Corfu in the 1930s, and Gerald Durrell, Lawrence’s brother, who wrote a number of books about his experiences studying and collecting animals on the island.

Another notable intellectual from Corfu is the art historian and critic John Boardman, who is known for his work on ancient Greek art and archaeology. Boardman was born on the island in 1927 and has written numerous books and articles on Greek art and culture.

Corfu’s contribution to the formation of the modern Greek state

Corfu played an important role in the formation of the modern Greek state. During the Ottoman occupation of Greece, Corfu was one of the few places that remained under Venetian control. The island served as a refuge for Greek intellectuals and revolutionaries who were seeking to overthrow Ottoman rule and establish an independent Greek state.

One of the most significant events in Corfu’s contribution to the formation of the modern Greek state was the arrival of Ioannis Kapodistrias, a Corfiot who served as the first governor of independent Greece from 1828 until his assassination in 1831. Kapodistrias was a key figure in the struggle for Greek independence and played an important role in shaping the country’s early political and social institutions.

Corfu also served as a center of Greek culture and education during this period. The island was home to a number of schools and educational institutions that played a vital role in preserving the Greek language, culture, and traditions. Many of the intellectuals and leaders of the Greek War of Independence, such as Theodoros Kolokotronis, Andreas Miaoulis, and Nikolaos Kriezotis, spent time on Corfu and were influenced by the island’s rich cultural heritage.

Today, Corfu remains an important cultural and historical center in Greece. Its museums, monuments, and historic landmarks serve as a reminder of the island’s important role in the formation of the modern Greek state.


Corfu has a rich cultural history that includes strong musical traditions, very rich literature, and intellectuals.

Overall, Corfu’s cultural heritage is a fascinating mix of influences from various foreign powers, as well as its own unique traditions. The island continues to be a hub of creativity and intellectual activity, attracting visitors from around the world who are drawn to its rich cultural history and vibrant arts scene.

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