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The Emilios Riadis Archive

Brief historic background | The various parts of the Riadis Archive | The catalogue – Remarks | Search | Bibliography

Brief historic background

The Emilios Riadis Archive is one of the most precious possessions of the Music Library of Greece ‘Lilian Voudouri’. It was donated on June 22, 2000 by Mrs. Ismini Tzermia-Sakellaropoulou. This part of the archive was in the hands of the composer’s brother’s wife, Eliza Riadi, who in 1978, some years before her death, entrusted it to Mrs. Sakellaropoulou. Another part of the archive made its way to Greece from Belgium (Mrs. Eliza Riadi was from Belgium) and was entrusted to Mrs. Aliki Goulara in Thessaloniki (her husband was Riadis’s heirs’ private attorney). According to Mrs. Maria Dimitriadou-Karagiannidou, in the lecture she delivered during the Riadis Conference held at the Athens Concert Hall in 1992, the manuscripts of this section of the archive were handed over to the library of the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki on May 16, 1988 where they remain to this day1. Some of the composer’s books and other related material are still in Mrs. Goulara’s hands.

Sixty-six years after his death, Riadis’s work is still very little known, despite the composer’s preeminent role in the development of modern Greek music. One can say of Riadis that he is a Greek impressionist who finds his inspiration in demotic music, but in his hand he holds a French pen.

Thanks to Mrs. Ismini Sakellaropoulou’s zeal and efficiency, thanks to the musicologist Giorgos Leotsakos, thanks to the director of the Athens National Orchestra, Byron Fidetzis, and thanks to the composer and conductor Nikos Christodoulos, the general public was introduced to Riadis’s work. Concerts were performed during the cultural events of the 27th Dimitria Festival in Thessaloniki, and a number of lectures and a concert were given during the Riadis Conference organized by the Athens Concert Hall, the Thessaloniki History Centre and the Association of Thessalonians in October 1992. On the other hand, the release of the CD Αιμιλίου Ριάδη, Έργα Ι (Emilios Riadis, Works I)2 also played a key role in bringing the composer’s work to a larger public. 

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The various parts οf the Riadis archive

The purpose of this article is to describe the material that was donated by Mrs. Ismini Sakellaropoulou to the Music Library of Greece ‘Lilian Voudouri’. This material amounts to a total of 3, 529 pages, out of which 733 are texts –both poetry and prose; various documents, photographs and printed matter take up another 563 pages, and the remaining 2, 233 pages contain Riadis’s manuscripts.

Prose and poetry

Riadis the music composer was also an accomplished poet. His poetry covers a large part of the surviving archive. What the 600 pages and more of handwritten and printed poetry have in common with his music compositions –these take up a much greater part of the archive- is an evident tendency towards perfectionism underlined by a constant effort on the part of the artist to rework his ideas, even after the publication of his   works. There are manifold copies of his poems among his manuscripts, mostly undated.

His poetry was first published in some magazines in Thessaloniki when Riadis was still young; O Faros tis Thessalonikis was most probably the first magazine to publish two of the young man’s poems in 1904; they were signed Aim. Kou. (Αιμ. Κου.) This was followed by other works published in various others magazines in Thessaloniki and in Athens, and by a selection of poems: Εκ της συλλογής πατριωτικών ποιημάτων του Αιμ. Ελευθεριάδου (From the selection of patriotic poems by Em. Eleftheriados) in 1905.

The poet kept a small scrapbook with clippings of the printed versions of his poems from 1904 to 1906. This scrapbook is of great importance to researchers for two main reasons: one, that only random references, mostly later ones, had so far been made of these printed poems, and two, the fact that the scrapbook offers us unique material with the personal touch, comments and photograph of the composer in 1906.  Η Κουκουβάγια (The Owl) is a poem Riadis wrote when he was studying in Munich in 1909; it is dedicated to ‘my great teacher Demetrios Dallas’ 3.  It was published in the illustrated weekly magazine ‘Epochi’ of Thessaloniki at a much later date, on December 30th, 1928. As the magazine’s editor significantly declared: “we found it in the library of a Macedonian scholar and today we submit it to the public”. The composer wrote yet another poem, Στον Παρθενώνα (At the Parthenon), which he dedicated with similar enthusiasm to Demetrios Lallas.

Riadis put many of his poems to music, as for instance with Τρύγος (The Grape Harvest) from his selection Πέντε χορευτικά τραγούδια (Five dancing songs).Αιμίλιος Ριάδης, Τρύγος, Μάρθα Αράπη, σοπράνο, Εύα Ρεβίδη, μέτζο, Στάθης Κιοσόγλου, κλαρίνο, Γιώργος Δεμερτζής, βιολί, Πάρις Αναστασιάδης, βιόλα, Βύρων Φιδετζής, βιολοντσέλο, Δόμνα Ευνουσίδου, πιάνο, Σάββας Ζάννας, ντέφι, ηχογράφηση από συναυλία στο Μέγαρο Μουσικής Αθηνών, 15 Οκτωβρίου 1992

Only a small part of his poetic work is in French and consists mainly of poems he put to music and which were published in Paris by Senart and Chapelier; only a small number of these poems in French have never been published.

It is worth noting that among the verses there is a draft for an opera called Tutahoroa, Sentier des âmes pour la nuit éternelle , en quatre actes, Paroles et musique d’Aemilian Reiadis. The composer adds that the opera "takes place at the austral end of the Polynesian peninsula, Tararao, at a time when the winged Toupapahous still used to come down among the mortals".4 Riadis’s interest for the Far East is apparent in his writings about the music and poetry of these cultures.

His History of music is also included in the archive material. Only the first volume seems to be complete; Riadis himself refers to it as the first volume in spite of the fact that no material has been traced for, no draft exists of, a second volume. This study is an overall survey of the creation of music and its practice in ancient civilizations (Egyptian, Sumerian, Persian, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Hebrew and Greek), and must be one of the first studies of its kind by a Greek musician. The manner in which Riadis presents his subject is quite innovative in Greek letters and his work probably takes precedence over the 1924 History of Music by Avra Theodoropoulou, who, it must be stressed, makes no mention of ancient music and in particular none of other cultures.

Half of Riadis’s study is concerned with Greek music. He begins with ancient music, making references to tragedy, dithyramb, instruments, harmony, tetrachords and scales; he continues with a study of Byzantine music, the melodoi and the tonal system, and ends with ‘popular song’ which he studies in the light of Byzantine music. The manuscript is undated, and was probably meant to be published or to be used as didactic material after 1915 when Riadis returned to teach in Thessaloniki.

Documents – Photographs – Printed material

The composer’s rather worn baptism certificate, his school reports and his study certificate from the Akademie der Tonkunst in Munich, together with 75 photographs of himself and his family, but also of Greek and foreign artists -some of these dedicated to him-and several post-cards all form part of this section of the archive.

In addition to these personal papers, this section also includes paper clippings, concert programmes and his printed works.

There are also three portraits. Two are full face portraits full face portraits, though only one of them has a legible signature, Sofos. The third one is a full body portrait with a dedication in French: “A mon cher ami E. Riadis … Salonique 1917”, with an undecipherable signature.


To achieve perfection was composer Emilios Riadis’s objective. The multiple corrections he made to his songs, even on some that had already been printed, point to features of indecisiveness and perfectionism in the composer’s character.

One is taken aback by the chaotic writing of the manuscripts: words written over each other on several layers, corrections in ink and pencil, complete pages crossed out. Another recurrent feature are the music notes that the composer has spelled out to avoid confusion after repeated erasing. It is therefore hardly surprising that the printed songs have been played much more often than the handwritten ones, in the limited number of performances of the composer’s works. To decipher these unedited songs, as well as his chamber music, requires a titanic effort. As mentioned above, some of these compositions have been recovered and deciphered for the 1992 concerts and the release of the 1994 CD, which includes works such as the String Quartet in G. Αιμίλιος Ριάδης, Κουαρτέτο εγχόρδων σε σολ, Γιώργος Δεμερτζής, Δημήτρης Χανδράκης βιολιά, Πάρις Αναστασιάδης, βιόλα, Βύρων Φιδετζής, βιολοντσέλο, από το CD Aιμιλίου Ριάδη, Έργα Ι (Lyra, 0116)

The archive has been classified according to the composer’s works, following the notes that Riadis himself wrote down on the cover pages. Georgios Leotsakos compiled a list of works for the 1980 edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and then the more recent 2001 edition, listing the works in an attempt to ‘tidy up what was possible ’; our catalogue has taken into account Leotsakos’s list in organizing the archive.5

 The detailed recording of the works in a properly organized catalogue has brought to light unknown compositions that do not appear in any previous catalogues, as well as various song titles: for instance, the song cycle Ανατολίτικα τραγούδια is also called Chansons Orientales and Les chants de la femme turque, and the song cycle Musique funèbre sur des vers de José María d’Hérédia is also referred to as Mélodies antiques. Even individual songs sometimes have more than one title or different verses in the various copies or drafts. A good example is the first song of Τρία τσιγγάνικα τραγούδια, or 3 chansons tziganes which has three different titles in three different copies:  Σα γύριζα τη χαραή ή Παληό μοιρολόι ή Lamento vechio. The music too of these songs undergoes a series of variations.

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The catalogue – Remarks

The complete catalogue, which naturally quotes the compositions I mention below, lists the title of each work, the type of composition, the instrumentation, the total number of manuscript pages per work, the composition date and the author of the lyrics. It didn’t seem necessary to bring these particulars to the public’s notice in this brief presentation; researchers looking for more information on specific works can consult the index we include or contact our Library’s services. 

As mentioned before, the detailed classification and recording of the composer’s work brought to light various compositions –some of them just drafts- that had not yet been recorded. These fifteen compositions are listed below:

Song sketchtes for voice and piano:
a) Danses grecques et orientales / Danses asiatiques or Danses persanes with lyrics in French by an unknown poet, possibly Riadis himself.
b) Τα τραγούδια της Φιρμαδούλας under the title Noces and based on the verses of Riadis’s cycle of poems with the same title. There’s only a brief introduction with the verses: «Νύφη σα ντυνότανε κι άρχιζ’ η χαρά». The same cycle of poems is published elsewhere under the title Τα Τραγούδια της Περμαθούλας. It is however clear that Riadis made only a minor attempt to put these poems to music.

Piano Works:
a) Prélude dansé. A completed work written in black ink with the usual corrections and additions. The remark noted on the manuscript that ‘Une copie a été faite par Mlle. J. Nedeklon. Elle a fait une autre copie pour Mme Stavrou” implies that there exist at least two more copies of this work.
b) Fox trot tango. This is an unusual title and type of composition for Riadis. Though complete, it includes a great many corrections.
c) Johannou Marche. In our research to trace this untypical work and title we came across a poem in the composer’s manuscripts titled: «Στον στρατηγό Ιωάννου» (To the General Ioannou), with the words: «Οπου πατεί το πόδι σου, δάφνης να βγει κλονάρι» (where your foot falls, a branch of laurel grows). It is well known that Riadis deeply admired the Macedonian struggle, as many of his –published and unpublished – patriotic poems testify. This unique composition, undated as most of the others, has a military and patriotic character and may well have been inspired by the poem to General Ioannou mentioned above. Further research brought to light the name of the vice-general Demetrios Ioannou, who, in 1917, led the Archipelagos Division in the Monastiri and Skra military operations; later on he also took part in the Minor Asia campaign6. It is however impossible to establish with certainty that this Ioannou was the poet-composer’s source of inspiration, or to know what ties they had.
d) Marche Espagnole. This is the only work that makes a reference to a Spanish element, proof once more of the composer’s interest in other cultures. The work is complete and has instrumentation indications and corrections.
e) Theme mit Variationen [and … Sonate opus 5], signed: “E. R. H. Khu”. This is probably a homework exercise or copy.

Works for music ensembles
a) Concerto da camera for vc, pf, 2vn, fl, cl, ob. Just a draft with the indication “II Andante”.
b) Bemberg, Herman: Chant Hindou (arrangement for cl, 2 vn, va, vc). The song Chant Hindou by Bemberg (1859 – 1931) for soprano or tenor and piano was very popular in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century.
c) Scott, Cyril: Indian suite (arrangement for cl, 2vn, va, vc). Cyril Scott (1879 – 1970) was a well-known European composers during Riadis’s years in Paris. He had a special interest in Indian philosophy, as is clear from the title of this piece that Riadis resolved to orchestrate.

Choir songs (transcriptions):
a) Τρείς ρωμέικες χορωδίες για αντρικές φωνές (Three popular Greek choir songs for male voices): 1. Εχε για, 2. Πάλε συνέφιας΄ο ουρανός, 3. Γαρουφαλιά (T, B/S,B) These songs are included in the selection Das Lied der Voelker.  There exists another version of these choir songs with the addition of ‘Γιασεμί’ (Jasmine) for 4 voices and piano but with a different arrangement of voices.
b) Δύο κουαρτέτα φωνητικά (Two voice quartets): 1. Μάνα με κακοπάντρεψες, 2. Το φίλημα (S, A, T, B, pf)
c) Αξιον εστί (Holy mass) (2v)

a) “Quatuor” notebook with exercises (4v)
b) Studies of sounds and genres

Only 30 works (from the 50 in the catalogue) are complete and only 9 are dated. The earliest is his 1909 Fuga for string quartet and the latest is Εκάβη (Hecabe) composed in 1927. In the in-between period only a few songs and the Prelude tragiqueΑιμίλιος Ριάδης, Μακεδονικές σκιές / Ombres Macedoniennes για 2 πιάνα, Δόμνα Ευνουχίδου, Μαρία Αστεριάδου, πιάνο, ηχογράφηση από συναυλία στο Μέγαρο Μουσικής Αθηνών, 15 Οκτωβρίου 1992 for piano (the composition on which Ombres macédoniennes and Εκάβη –Hecabe- are based) are dated to 1911, Γαλάτεια (Galateia) in 1912 and 1913, La route verte in 1914 and Au temple de la lune from the Pélérinages fantasques in 1920.

The works for string quartet are particularly interesting. The lack of order in the manuscript leads one to think that the composer hadn’t quite decided how to organize his quartet(s). It would seem that he had composed parts of a quartet but had not made up his mind how to organize them. The Quartet in G, performed as we mentioned above in 1992, was given a definite shape by the composer and conductor Nikos Christodoulou. The other parts –exception made of the parts in the Quartet in G- have been dealt with separately (catalogues nos. 38 and 39) as have been the sonata(s) for cello and piano.

We have limited ourselves here to the material that Mrs. Ismini Tzermia-Sakellaropoulou donated to the Music Library of Greece ‘Lilian Voudouri’. It is imperative to establish a detailed catalogue with a complete listing and description of the composer’s works, sixty-six years after his death. Due to the peculiarities of the material, and even more so to the peculiarities of the composer, a meticulous comparison and scrutiny of the manuscripts must be carried out. This is particularly necessary in the case of the songs in order to carefully record the different versions and transcriptions of the works. The composer’s other manuscripts kept in the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki must also be analyzed, studied and listed with great care so as to establish a single complete catalogue.

Emilios Riadis is one of the most outstanding composers of his time and of what is known as the Greek National School, therefore his works deserve to be treated accordingly.

Stephanie Merakos
  (translated by Maria Teresa Hildebrand)

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Foivos Anogeianakis, «Prologue» in Αιμίλιος Ριάδης, Τραγούδια, (Emilios Riadis, Songs) ed. Foivos Anogeianakis (Thessalonica: Τέχνη publishing house, [1973])
Maria Dimitriadou - Karagiannidou, «Αιμίλιος Ριάδης-Η συμβολή του στη μουσική και λογοτεχνική ζωή της Θεσσαλονίκης, το αρχείο του στο ΚΩΘ», speech during the symposium Ο 'Αγνωστος Ριάδης 1880-1935 (Athens Concert Hall, 14 October 1992)
_____________, «Introduction» in Αιμίλιου Ριάδη, Τραγούδια Thessalonica: Τέχνη publishing house, [1973])
Dimitra Diamantopoulou-Cornejo, «Les mélodies pour une voix et piano d’ Emile Riadis: Aspects esthétiques entre les musiques Française et Grecque au début di XXe siècle» (Doctorate dissertation, Universite Francois Rabelais, Tours, 2001)
Giannis Kaimakis, «Το δημοτικό τραγούδι στο έργο του Ριάδη» speech during the symposium Ο 'Αγνωστος Ριάδης 1880-1935 (Athens Concert Hall, 14 October 1992)
Manolis Kalomoiris, «Ο Αιμίλιος Ριάδης και η Ελληνική μελωδία» Nea Hestia 41 (1947), 594-596
George Leotsakos, Ο 'Αγνωστος Ριάδης 1880-1935, Ο δημιουργός και το έργο του, Program (Athens Concert Hall, 14 October 1992)
_____________, «Riadis [Eleftheriadis; Khu], Emilios», The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie (Macmillan, 2001) 21: 313-314
_____________, «Riadis Emilios» , Παγκόσμιο βιογραφικό λεξικό, (Athens: Εκδοτική Αθηνών, 1991) 9Α: 69-70
Nikos Christodoulou, «Κουαρτέτο με πιάνο και Κουαρτέτο εγχόρδων. Προβλήματα αποκατάστασης και πρόταση εκτελέσιμης μορφής από τα χειρόγραφα», speech during the symposium Ο 'Αγνωστος Ριάδης 1880-1935 (Athens Concert Hall, 14 October 1992)
Evelyn Voightmanm-Kaimaki, «Ο Ριάδης και ο ιμπρεσιονισμός», speech during the symposium Ο 'Αγνωστος Ριάδης 1880-1935 (Athens Concert Hall, 14 October 1992)

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1 Mrs. Maria Dimitriadou-Karagiannidou made a brief description of the contents of the archive material at the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki during the Riadis Conference held at the Athens Concert Hall on October 14th and 15th 1992.
2 Riadis, Emilios, Erga I (Athens: Lyra, 0116).
3 This is clearly a misprint for Demetrios Lallas.
4 «Se passe dans l’extrémité australe de la presqu’île Tararao de la Polynésie à l’ époque où les Toupapahous (ailés ?) descendaient encore parmi les vivants ». The word ailés is hard to decipher in the original text.
5 Georgios Leotsakos, “Riadis Emilios”, Παγκοσμίο Βιογραφικό Λεξικό (Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon, 1991).
6 History of the Greek Nation (Athens: Ekdotiki Athinon,) vol. 14, p. 64, 72.

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