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Andreas Makris, 74; Violinist, Composer

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2005; Page B08

Andreas Makris, 74, a National Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence and violinist for 28 years, died of complications from diabetes Feb. 3 at his home in Silver Spring.

Mr. Makris's works were played in major cities around the world, and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich commissioned more works from him than from any other musician. In 1978, Rostropovich told The Washington Post, "In my opinion, Makris is a great composer."

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Mr. Makris's works played to generally good reviews, and he received numerous honors, including being the first contemporary composer to be premiered at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. He wrote a piece for conductor Leonard Bernstein's 60th birthday concert and a composition honoring the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Kennedy Center. His arrangement of Paganini's "Moto Perpetuo" became a standard encore for the National Symphony Orchestra's world tours. His overture was played this month at the opening of the Strathmore Concert Hall.

In 1978, his composition "Anamnesis" was described by a reviewer as "a joyful and delightful work in three movements, expertly orchestrated and constructed with humor and sensitivity in an appealing idiom. The orchestra played it as if they enjoyed it, too."

In 1981, his "Fanfare for Alexander" "had all the triumphant blare of an MGM blockbuster. It made you look to see if Alexander of Macedon was coming down the aisle. Alas, he was not," Post reviewer Paul Hume said. "Variations and Song" begins with some eloquent lyrical episodes, moves through some ingenious sonorities and rhythms and ends up like a latter-day "Caucasian Sketches."

His three-minute "Fourth of July March" evoked the sound of a band marching past the audience. "It is a charming novelty and may become another tradition," reviewer Joseph McLellan said.

Part of Mr. Makris's job at the National Symphony Orchestra was to help Rostropovich sort through unsolicited scores that arrived in the mail from unknown but hopeful composers. He came up with 13 tips for those trying to break through the slush pile, including such real-world advice as send full scores, do not send an orchestra music for a string quartet and "always put your return address on the score."

Mr. Makris was born in Salonika, Greece, and graduated from the National Conservatory there. In 1950, he moved to the United States to study at Phillips University in Enid, Okla., the Kansas City Conservatory, Mannes College of Music in New York and the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.

He was a member of the orchestra's violin section from 1961 to 1989 and received many awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant, an ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Award and the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music Award.

In 1988, the National Symphony Orchestra played a concert in Athens, where McLellan interviewed Mr. Makris. "I was a young boy when I left here 35 years ago," he said, "and it was 12 years before I came back the first time." One place he always visited in Athens was Syntagma Square, a symbol of the nation's hard-won independence from the Ottoman Empire. "This was the first territory we liberated, the first fresh air," he said.

Mr. Makris also said he met with his first music teacher, a woman who taught him piano before he was forced to give up his lessons during World War II. "I tried to make do with a mandolin because I could find no piano to play," he said.

Mr. Makris obtained his first violin "by accident" during World War II. One day, his father was coming home with the family's small monthly ration of salt and olive oil when he was approached by a man who, weeping, begged him to trade the olive oil for a violin. "I have six children to feed; we need oil," the man pleaded. "So, for a month, we had our bean soup without olive oil," Mr. Makris said, "and I began to learn to play the violin.

"War, suffering and sacrifice," he mused. "In America, we don't know all that."

Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Margaret Makris of Silver Spring; two sons, Myron F. Makris of Silver Spring and M. Christos Makris of Ventura, Calif.; and two grandsons.

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