Asma Amaton (Song of Songs), from the Ballad of Mauthausen

Maria Farandouri sings Asma Amaton

The “Mauthausen Trilogy” also known as “The Ballad of Mauthausen”, and the “Mauthausen Cantata”, is a cycle of four arias with lyrics based on poems written by Greek poet Iakovos Kambanellis, a Mauthausen concentration camp survivor, and music written by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.

It has been described as the “most beautiful musical work ever written about the Holocaust”, and as “an exquisite, haunting and passionate melody that moves Kambanellis’ affecting words to an even higher level”.

Approximately a year after the release of his ballad, during the premiere of the Mauthausen song cycle in London in 1967, Mikis Theodorakis was imprisoned in Greece by the recently installed Greek military junta and his music was banned in the country.

The title of the songs is “The Ballad of Mauthausen” and contained four arias: “Άσμα ασμάτων [Asma Asmaton]” (Song of Songs) with verses inspired to a degree by erotic lyrics from the biblical Song of Songs, and includes the lyrics Τι ωραία που είναι η αγάπη μου [Ti oraia pou einai i agapi mou] (How beautiful is my beloved)…

In “Asma Asmaton” the struggle of the young male prisoner is depicted as he is trying hopelessly to locate his love. It reflects Kambanellis’s own experience at Mauthasen with a Lithuanian-Jewish woman, as it recounts the love affair between a young Greek prisoner and his Jewish love. Kambanellis uses a question from the biblical “Song of Songs” 3:3: “Have you seen the one I love?” as the refrain for his lyrics.

Source of extracts above: Wikipedia

Sung in Greek by Maria Farandouri, with English sub-titles.

English translation

Song of Songs

How beautiful is my love
With her everyday dress
And with the comb in her hair.
No one knew that she’s so beautiful
No one knew that she’s so beautiful
No one knew that she’s so beautiful.

You girls of Auschwitz,
You Dachau girls,

Have you seen my love, perchance?
Have you seen my love, perchance?
Have you seen my love, perchance?

We saw her on a long journey.
She no longer wore her dress
Nor her comb in her hair.

How beautiful is my love,
Pampered by her loving mother,
And her brother’s kisses.

No one knew that she’s so beautiful
No one knew that she’s so beautiful
No one knew that she’s so beautiful.

You girls of Mathausen,
You girls of Belsen,

Have you seen my love, perchance?
Have you seen my love, perchance?
Have you seen my love, perchance?

We saw her standing in the frozen square
With a number on her white arm,
A yellow star over her heart.

How beautiful is my love,
Pampered by her loving mother,
And her brother’s kisses.

No one knew that she’s so beautiful
No one knew that she’s so beautiful
No one knew that she’s so beautiful.

Comments (3)

  • Beautiful haunting music

  • Graeme Atkinson says:

    Stunningly powerful and deeply moving. It leaves me lost for words.

  • Robert says:

    75 years old and I am crying….
    I feel my heartbreaking for the children and adults lost by the hands of humans inflicting inhumanity on their fellow humans.
    Crying that so many died and my children and grandchildren are alive and right now watching me, the youngest sees me cry and puts a hand on my shoulder.
    All those suffering, no reassuring hand for them.
    We must remember, we must stand together and tell the story together….
    Man, woman, old, young, all races, sexuality and especially all religions….

    We are human sharing one earth and one sky.

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