a look at the music of Vangelis Papathanassiou
Who was Vangelis ?
Evanghelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, widely recognized by his first name ‘Vangelis’, was a Greek musician and composer who has left an indelible mark on the world of electronic and ambient music. Born on the 29th of March 1943 in Agria, a small town near Volos in Greece, Vangelis displayed a passion for music from an early age, eventually becoming one of the most influential and revered composers of our time. Vangelis sadly passed away on the 17th of May 2022 in Paris, France.
Although best known for his musical compositions, Vangelis did not limit himself to the art of music, he also liked to express himself through painting and sculpting. While growing up in Volos, Vangelis was raised together with his brother Niko, when his family moved to Athens where his father worked in property. According to his own memories Vangelis was always fascinated by sound and music, ever since his earliest childhood. He vividly remembered that as a kid he was always banging on things to see what kind of sound it would produce, and he already staged a public concert at the age of six! His fascination for sound is essential to understand Vangelis and his music.
During his long career (spanning almost 60 years) his work received the appreciation of a worldwide public and received many awards. Nevertheless it seemed that Vangelis always tried to let his music prevail before any commercial success. From his early successes with groups like the The Forminx and Aphrodite's Child, to his highly acclaimed scores for films such as the Oscar-winning “Chariots Of Fire” (1981), “Blade Runner” (1982), “Missing” (1982), “Conquest Of Paradise” (1992) and "Alexander"(2004), Vangelis usually shied away from public attention and rather focused on his next experiment in artistic creation.
Early in the 1960s Vangelis first publicly appeared performing with his school band The Forminx, who soon became a huge national success in Greece with their Beatles-like appearance and beat-styled songs. Already Vangelis showcased his talent for composing popular songs while playing the keys of his Hammond organ. This period allowed Vangelis to experiment with different genres, blending rock, progressive, and psychedelic elements into his compositions.
After a few short collaborations with other Greek performers such as Maria, Zoitsa 'Zoe' Kouroukli, and Aleka Kanellidou, Vangelis formed his own band with the name 'The Papathanassiou Set', together with Arghyros 'Silver' Koulouris, Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras. It is under this name that they recorded and released singles with George Romanos, Ricardo Credi and Vilma Lado.
In 1968 Vangelis, Demis and Lucas decided to try their luck in the British music scene, but on their way to London got stuck in Paris. At first the trio was refused entry in the UK at the port of Dover due to problems with their work permits. Upon return to Paris, a national transportation strike as part of the 1968 student protests prohibted further travel. In Paris they were signed by Philips executive Pierre Sberro and under the name of Aphrodite's Child they published their first single "Rain And Tears" which immediately became a huge hit. The single was quickly followed by their first album "End Of The World", and a year later the band released their second album titled "It's Five O'Clock".
Refusing to further tour with the band, Vangelis preferred to stay in the studio working on new material. Just before the end of the decade Vangelis began his solo-career, composing the music score for a film named "Sex Power" by director Henry Chapier. The released soundtrack album would be the first album released in his own name.
In the early 1970s Vangelis began his life-long collaboration with French director Frédéric Rossif, composing music for his documentary films and tv-series. Their first major collaborative production was the popular wildlife TV-series "L'Apocalypse Des Animaux".
This was the beginning of a long-lasting artistic cooperation, as during the next two decades Vangelis provided original music for many more documentaries by Frédéric Rossif, such as "Georges Mathieu Ou La Fureur d'Etre" (1971), "Au Pays Des Visages" (1972), "Georges Braque Ou Le Temps Different" (1974), "La Fête Sauvage" (1975), "L'Opera Sauvage" (1979), "Pablo Picasso Peintre" (1981), "Sauvage Et Beau" (1984), "Pasteur Le Siecle" (1987), "Morandi" (1989) and "De Nuremberg A Nuremberg" (1989).
As for Aphrodite’s Child, while the band was touring through Europe, Vangelis continued to work in the studio on the band’s third and final album "666", a psychedelic rock adaptation of the biblical Book Of Revelation. Even before the release of the album the band had already split up and all members shifted their focus to solo projects. Demis Roussos moved on to become a popular and successful artist after releasing his first solo album “On The Greek Side Of My Mind” in 1971, while Lucas Sideras produced two solo albums, “One Day (1972) and “Pax Spray”(1975).
The break-up of Aphrodite’s Child is a turning point in Vangelis’ career, as it marks the beginning of a fruitful and experimental time doing all kinds of different projects. While sometimes working as a session musician or composer for other artists such as Paul Labbey, Helen Banks, Little Sammy Gaha, Francois Wertheimer and Dimitri Tambossis, Vangelis also experimented with improvisational composition, not only showcased by the unofficially released and later withdrawn albums “The Dragon” and “Hypothesis (1971, published in 1978), but also by excentric single releases with names such as “Alpha Beta” (1971, together with his then-girlfriend Vilma Ladopoulou) and “Inter-Groupie Psychotherapeutic Elastic Band” (1971).
In 1972 Vangelis would release his first (non-soundtrack) studio album "Fais Que Ton Rêve Soit Plus Long Que La Nuit", an album inspired by the student protests in Paris during 1968, which had held up his journey to London at the time. It effectively is a collage of sound recordings made on the street during the actual riots, combined with protest chants and Vangelis’ dreamy soundscapes.
During this first part of the seventies Vangelis experimented with creating new sounds using synthesizers, a relative new instrument at the time. While looking for a new direction he also briefly formed a band with Laurie Langenbach as a singer, but that short-lived initiative never resulted in a release.
In 1973 Vangelis did release a progressive rock album titled "Earth", a concept album inspired by Greek ancient music, and also provided the score for another Henry Chapier movie titled "Amore". In between he also found time to record a few songs with Greek singer Melina Mercouri, which they performed on French television. In 1974, after arranging an album for Italian singer Claudio Baglioni, Vangelis was asked to join the British band "Yes" by singer Jon Anderson. While Vangelis did travel to London to meet with the other band members, that effort did not turn out fruitful as Vangelis still refused to tour with a band. Apparently this all did leave him with his synths and a work permit in London, so he decided to move and set up his very own studio there.
As the location for his new studio Vangelis chose the top floor of a (now no longer existing) building at Hampden Gurney Street, that had previously been used as an Anglican girls school. It would be known as “Nemo Studios”. The studio was conveniently located, in walking distance from Vangelis’ apartment in Queen’s Gate. While work on the studio was still in progress, Vangelis produced two albums at Orange Studio in London around the same time: the album “Phos” by the Greek rock-band Socrates, and a self-titled album by the Greek singer Mariangela.
Despite the ongoing construction work at Nemo Studios, Vangelis managed to record his new album "Heaven And Hell" (1975) there. It was the first album to be released on his new record label RCA, to be followed by the cosmic "Albedo 0.39" (1976), the electronic "Spiral" (1977) and the experimental "Beaubourg" (1978). It is also the first album where Jon Anderson appeared, singing his lyrics to the beautiful "So Long Ago, So Clear". To promote the album Vangelis organised a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in February 1976.
Owning a studio was a dream come true for Vangelis, as it gave him the freedom to explore new sounds and create music without limitations. Soon the studio was filled with all kinds of instruments, not only the latest synthesizers but also a variet of percussion and acoustic instruments, even some electronic gadgets to create futuristic sound effects. A good example is the album “Spiral”, which is the first album where Vangelis used the iconic Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer. This instrument would become a signature instrument of Vangelis for many of his following productions.
Around this time Vangelis not only worked with photographer Veronique Skawinska (she is credited for many of the photographs on his albums), but they also were a couple for a long time (according to some sources they were married for years).
The newly built studio attracted other artists as well that came to record their music there. Many were brought to the studio by Vangelis’ brother Niko, who was a music producer in Italy at the time. Among others Patty Pravo (1976), Riccardo Cocciante (1976), Chrisma (1976 to 1979), Panda (1977), and I Nuovi Angeli (1977) visited the studio and worked with Vangelis there (although it is debated whether Vangelis’ had any input on the albums by Chrisma). Also Demis Roussos, the lead singer of Aphrodite's Child who had become a super-star with a very successful solo career found his way to Vangelis’ studio. They continued their cooperation on albums such as "Magic" (1977), “Ainsi Soit-il” (1977), "Demis" (1982) and "Reflection" (1984).
Despite the immense workload Vangelis still managed
to compose for film, for instance for Frédéric Rossif’s "La
Fête Sauvage" (1975) and "L'Opera
Sauvage" (1976-1980). Especially
the last title is a large body of work, a documentary series of 21 episodes
produced over a period of 5 years, for which Vangelis provided hours and hours
of music. Only a small selection of that work was released on the album “Opera
As Vangelis more and more ran into the limitations of the recording equipment that was installed during the initial setup of his studio, in 1978 the studio saw a major upgrade of the recording equipment, including a whole new 36-channel mixing desk. This greatly improved the sound quality of the recordings, as can be heard on Vangelis’ next musical project "China" (1979). This album was the first as part of a new contract signed with record label Polydor, which would serve him well into the 1980s. “China” is an inspired album based on Chinese influences, where Vangelis not only shows his ability to play electronic instruments, but also masterfully plays all kinds of percussion. To promote the album Vangelis organised three concerts throughout 1979, in London, Brussels and Paris.
The same year Vangelis returned to his Greek roots with the release of the album “Odes” (1979), together with the Greek actress and singer Irene Papas. The two had earlier worked together in Paris, where Irene had provided vocals on the controversial song “Infinity” for Aphrodite’s Child album “666”. This time Irene and Vangelis recorded a selection of traditional Greek songs in a typically electronic and modern arrangement. The two would later again collaborate on the album “Rapsodies” (1986), an album inspired by Byzantine music. Later Vangelis would provide music for many of the Greek plays that Irene staged and performed over the years.
On the turn of the decade Vangelis would also work again with Jon Anderson. The two had met in 1974 when Jon traveled to Paris to ask Vangelis to join his band “Yes”, but for several reasons that never happened. Instead Jon improvised lyrics on Vangelis’ album "Heaven And Hell" (1975). Their friendship would last well into the 1990s, and produced popular albums under their collaborative name “Jon and Vangelis”, such as "Short Stories" (1980), "The Friends Of Mr. Cairo" (1981), "Private Collection" (1983) and "Page Of Life" (1991). A number of songs from these albums became hit-singles, for example “I Hear You Now” (1979), The Friends Of Mr. Cairo”(1980) and “I’ll Find My Way Home” (1981).
After years of preparation, the "Cosmos" documentary television series was first broadcast in the United States on PBS public television in 1980.The popular science series, presented by Dr. Carl Sagan, immediately attracted wide-spread attention and was ultimately broadcast in more than 60 countries and viewed by millions and millions of people. The series extensively used the music from Vangelis’ 1970s albums as a score, and most notably “Movement 3” from “Heaven And Hell” (1975) as its main theme.
The first solo album of the 1980s titled "See You Later" (1980) is an unusual concept album including the vocals of among others Jon Anderson, Peter Marsh (with whom Vangelis would produce a separate single later), Cherry Vanilla and Chrisma. An advance single release to promote the album “My Love / Domestic Logic One” curiously only contains songs that ultimately were not included on the album.
Frédéric Rossif’s “Pablo Picasso Peintre” (1981) is the third in what is often considered a trilogy of documentaries about influencial painters. Vangelis composed the musical score for this documentary, as he earlier also did for “Georges Mathieu Ou La Fureur d'être“(1971) and "Georges Braque ou le temps différent" (1974).
One of the major successes for Vangelis came when his music for the British film "Chariots Of Fire" (1981) was awarded an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1982. Winning the Oscar is not only a tremendous recognition for Vangelis’ work, but the commercial success of the album and single also made Vangelis a highly sought-after film composer. The film's theme, with its iconic melody played on synthesizers, became synonymous with triumph and inspiration. A single release of the opening titles reached the first place in hit charts in the United States.
After this award-winning film score Vangelis composed the scores for a number of movies, music that by many is considered as some of his finest work ever, such as "Missing" (1982), quickly followed by "Blade Runner" (1982), "Antarctica" (1983) and "The Bounty" (1984). By this time the instruments that Vangelis had gathered in his studio were abundant, and the sound that he had made his own by then, based on a mixture of synthesized-electronics combined with clear percussions and acoustic instruments is often considered to be his most defining sound.
“Missing” (1982) is an American political drama by Greek director Costa Gavras, based on a true story about the dissapearance of a journalist. Apart from the famous main theme (included on the compilation album “Themes” (1989)) no music made for the film was ever officially released.
“Blade Runner” (1982) is an American science-fiction film by director Ridley Scott, based on the novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick. Despite a luke reception of the original cinema release the movie steadily developed a cult status, and is now considered one of his finest works. The atmospheric and evocative score composed for the film perfectly captured the dystopian essence of the story. The haunting, futuristic sounds blended with traditional orchestration created a sonic landscape that became inseparable from the movie itself. Vangelis' work on "Blade Runner" is considered one of the greatest film scores of all time and earned him widespread recognition. For unclear reasons Vangelis’ score only was officially released by 1994 (and an expanded release followed in 2007).
“Antarctica” (1983) –in Japan known as “Nankyoku Monogatari”– is a Japanese drama by director Koreyoshi Kurahara, based on a true story about a Japanese Antarctic expedition which is forced to leave behind their sled dogs.
Even though Vangelis was now in demand as a film composer, he disliked the idea of doing only that, as he felt it would limit his freedom of creation. Therefor he also declined offers, thus being able to switch his attention to other projects such as productions for the theatre. In 1983 Vangelis met and worked with ballet dancer and choreographer Wayne Eagling on his ballet performance “R.B.Sque” for the Royal Ballet School in London. Later the two would also cooperate on other ballet performances i.e. “Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus” (1985) and “Beauty And The Beast” (1986).
For his friend, the Greek actress and singer Irene Papas, Vangelis would also provide music for multiple stage plays, such as “Elektra” (1983), performed at the Epidaurus theatre in Greece, and also “Medea“ (1992) performed in Barcelona, “Theodora” (1994) performed in Lisbon, “Las Troyanas” (2001) performed in Sagunto, “Le Troiane Ed Ecuba” (2003) performed in Rome and “Antigone” (2005) performed in Syracuse. Unfortunately, none of the music that Vangelis composed for theatre productions was ever released, except for “Chariots Of Fire: The Play” (2012) which was performed in London.
Also never officially released (apart from the main and end titles on the compilation album “Themes” (1989)) is the music that Vangelis composed for “The Bounty” (1984), an American historical drama by Roger Donaldson, based on the famous true story of the mutiny by Fletcher Christian and his crew on the ship The Bounty in 1789.
“Soil Festivities” (1984) would become the first (non-soundtrack) solo album for Vangelis since "See You Later" (1980). It is ‘inspired by the processes of nature literally taking place beneath our feet, as a celebration of the springtime cycle of new life’. Thematically it can be considered the first in a trilogy of albums, together with the more abstract “Invisible Connections” (1985) and the choral “Mask”(1985), which would also be the last solo productions recorded in Nemo Studios.
Despite his commercial success Vangelis was often happy to contribute music for projects that he found artistically or scientifically interesting. One such contribution is “Silent Portraits” (1984), a luxurious photo-book by Italian photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri. The limited edition book is accompanied by a unique 12” record, containing two compositions especially made for this purpose and only available as part of the book.
One of Frédéric Rossif’s major wildlife films is “Sauvage Et Beau” (1984), for which Vangelis composed a lush and playful score. Only the main theme survived, as included on the compilation album “Portraits” (1996).
The year 1985 saw Vangelis cooperate with several artists, writing songs for Jon Anderson, Vicky Leandros, Elaine Paige and Suzanne Ciani that were published on their solo albums that year. The work with Suzanne Ciani was recorded in her studio in New York.
Having finished his second collaborative album with Irene Papas "Rapsodies", Vangelis also found time to work again with Italian singer Milva on her album “Tra Due Sogni” (or "Geheimnisse") in 1986, for which he composed all songs. The two had worked together before on another album, "Moi Je N’ai Pas Peur" (or "Ich Hab' Keine Angst") in 1981. The songs recorded with Milva would be among the last that Vangelis recorded in his Nemo Studios, as during the summer of 1986 he traveled to Los Angeles where he set up a mobile studio in his hotel room. From there he produced the music for Wayne Eagling’s ballet “Beauty And The Beast”, which was performed in London at Covent Garden.
Also while in Los Angeles, Vangelis spontanously played a composition by Michael Hoppé titled “The Parting”, which would later be released on his album “Solace” (2003), and he unexpectedly staged a concert at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), improvisingly performing some of his best known work, together with Jon Anderson singing several of their Jon and Vangelis hits.
During this time Carl Sagan had been preparing a reworked, shorter version of his “Cosmos” (1980) television series, broadcast as “Cosmos, a Special Edition”. The new version needed a new score, as due to its commercial nature not all music from the original series could be licenced. Vangelis composed a new score for this series, including a new main theme (titled “Comet 16”).
The year 1987 was not a fruitful one for Vangelis, as he had to spend a lot of time preparing a courtcase, fighting the allegations of Stavros Logaridis. The case was about the composition of the main theme, which Logaridis claimed to be his. While Vangelis won the case (making his argument by setting up his instruments in court and playing in front of the judge), it still affected him greatly, and he decided to close down his Nemo Studios (the building was demolished a few years later, to make place for an apartment building) and moved back to Athens, Greece.
Despite the ongoing courtcase, Vangelis contributed his music to a number of commercials directed by David Bailey, most notably the ads for the anti-fur campaign. Also, to commemorate their 100-year anniversary, he scored a documentary about the Louis Pasteur Institute by Frédéric Rossif, titled “Pasteur Le Siecle”.
On the move
The relocation from London to Athens marks the end of the Nemo Studios era and the ‘Polydor’-years. It is the start of a new creative period for Vangelis, and the first change is the the development of new technology that supports a more spontaneous method of composing and recording, based on custom MIDI systems. The first product of this new sytem is the appropriately named album “Direct” (1988) published on the Arista label.
While in Athens, Vangelis performed live during the Olympic Flame Ceremony held at the Panathinaikon stadium (the Greek Olympic Stadium of the first modern Olympic Games).
In 1989 Vangelis temporarily moved to Rome where he set up a mobile studio in his hotel room. There he created the score for Liliana Cavani’s movie "Francesco" (1989), as well as his next album "The City", which was released in 1990. This album would be his first for his new record label East-West, that would issue most of his albums during the 1990s. While staying in Rome, Vangelis also staged and improvised a charity concert at the Roman Terme di Caracalla on behalf of cancer research.
The end of the decade would also see the final cooperation between Vangelis and Frédéric Rossif on his impressive documentary series “De Nuremberg A Nuremberg”, about nazism and the Second World War. Frédéric Rossif sadly passed away on the 18th of April 1990.
To promote the candidacy of Athens as the location for the Olympic Games in 1996 (one hundred years after the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens), Vangelis was asked for his help. In 1990 this lead to the organisation of a promotional concert “Song For Athens” at the Panathinaikon stadium. For the same purpose Vangelis also created the music for a promotional animation film around the same time.
The next year Vangelis would perform at another big event to promote “Eureka”, the European intergovernmental organisation for scientific research funding and coordination. The concert “Eureka, Event Of Excellence” was held in Rotterdam on a floating stage in the river Maas on the 18th of June 1991, and featured guest appearances by Jon Anderson and Markella Hatziano.
The cooperation with Jon continued with the release of their fourth and final album “Page Of Life” (1991). The album would later see a re-release with a different selection of songs in 1998.
While back in Athens Vangelis recorded three songs with Greek singer Maria Farantouri, published on her album "17 Songs". Furthermore he performed one night at the “Night Of Poetry” event at the Herod Atticus theatre. The evening consisted of two parts, the first having guests reciting poems with Vangelis improvising music in the background, while the second part staged a mini-opera titled “Antigone”, sung by Markella Hatziano set to original music by Vangelis.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a French oceanographer and filmmaker, known for his numerous documentaries about his undersea explorations. In 1991 Vangelis provided a musical score for two episodes of the documentary series "Rediscovery Of The World" i.e. "Indonesia I - Les Vergers De l'Enfer" and "Indonesia II - Sumatra - Le Coeur De La Mer" (1991). Later Vangelis would also compose music for Cousteau’s films “Mirage Of The Sea”, “Rio ’92” (for the United Nations ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio De Janeiro), “La Mer Volée” (a re-edited version of “Mirage Of The Sea” produced for UNESCO) in 1992, and “Les Promesses De La Mer” in 1996.
In 1992 Vangelis set up his “Epsilon” studio in Paris, France, from where he started on a new project to compose the music for the latest feature film by Ridley Scott, "1492 Conquest Of Paradise". The film is an American historical drama depicting the first voyage of Christopher Columbus, sailing west from Spain to find a new route to Asia, thus discovering the American continents. The film was released to commorate the 500 year anniversary of Columbus’ voyage. Interest for the music "1492 Conquest Of Paradise" picked up by 1995, after the main theme was used by several others for promotion, such as the German boxer Henry Maske. A single release of the main theme reached the top position in hit charts in several European countries.
“Bitter Moon” (1992) is a French/UK erotic thriller by director Roman Polanski, starring his wife Emanuelle Seigner (who both were personal friends of Vangelis).
“The Plague” (1992) is an Argentine/French/UK drama by director Luis Puenzo, based on the novel “La Peste” by Albert Camus, about an outbreak of the black plague. In the film Vangelis is not credited for the music.
For his significant contributions to the arts Vangelis was awarded the French “Chevalier de Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” in 1992.
On behalf of the Greek Charity organisation “Elpida” (Hope), on July 13th 1993 Vangelis staged a special concert at the open-air odean of Herodes Atticus near the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. The music performed was “Mythodia”, a new choral symphony that later would again be performed at the Temple of Zeus in Athens (then named “Mythodea”).
In 1995 contributed a truly inspired album to the National Gallery (aka. Alexandros Soutzos Museum) in Athens for an initiative to generate funds for the purchase and maintenance of Domenikos Theotokopoulos' (usually referred to as ‘El Greco’) paintings. The album, "Foros Timis Ston Greko" (1995 “A Tribute To El Greco”), published in a luxurious boxset together with a substantial art book about the painter, was limited to 3000 copies only and signed by Vangelis. The music, which is often described as Byzantine, would later also be released as an expanded commercially available album simply titled “El Greco” (1998).
The sudden success of “1492 Conquest Of Paradise” (1992) in 1995 called for the release of his next studio album “Voices” (1995), which uplifting opening track sounds more than inspired by the famous theme from “1492 Conquest Of Paradise”. The album combined Vangelis’ ethereal music with the voices of Paul Young, Caroline Lavelle and Stina Nordenstam.
The next year Vangelis again turned his eyes to the screen, composing the score for the Greek film "Kavafis" (1996 “Cavafy”). The film by director Yannis Smaragdis portrays the life and love of the Greek poet Konstantinos P. Kavafis (Constantine P. Cavafy). The music is a mixture of Byzantine ethnic and lush melodic themes, of which only the original main theme was dignified with a release, on the compilation album “Odyssey (The Definitive Collection)” (2003).
“Oceanic” (1996), inspired by the oceans and the undersea world, is one of Vangelis’ most newage-like studio albums. Being very melodic and accessible, it was his second album to be nominated for a Grammy Award.
In the summer of 1997 Vangelis artistically directed the opening ceremony of the IAAF World Championship athletics. The event, held at the old Olympic Stadium in Athens presented a spectacular show, with Vangelis’ music being played live during the entrance of the athletes, and included many new compositions throughout the ceremony. At the end Vangelis performed live on stage, together with Montserrat Caballé.
The successful organization of the IAAF World Championship in Athens was a major factor in the Greek campaign to host the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, which succeeded when the IOC chose Athens only one month later. After that, Vangelis contributed more music to promote the Olympic Games in Athens 2004, e.g. for the presentation of the Olympic emblem (1999), the Olympic flame giveaway ceremony (2000) and the presentation of the Olympic Games in Athens during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sydney (2000).
The collaboration with Montserrat Caballé also turned out fruitful, as Vangelis composed several songs for her that were published on her albums "Friends For Life" (1997), "With All My Heart" (1998) and “Armenia and Artsakh - An Isle of Christianity” (2013).
With the release of the compilation album "Reprise 1990-1999" in 1999 Vangelis concluded his contract with record company East-West.
With the new decade also came a new record label when Vangelis signed with Sony Classical. Their first project would be formidable: “Mythodea” (2001). Preceded by a grand concert performance at the Temple of Zeus in Athens, the music on the album is an expanded and re-recorded version of the “Mythodia” choral symphony performed earlier in 1993. Apart from Vangelis on synthesizers, the music is performed by a full classic orchestra, accompanied by large male and female choirs. On several tracks vocals are provided by soprano’s Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman. Both the concert performance and album were linked to the ‘Odyssey’ mission of NASA, which had launched a spacecraft towards the planet Mars a couple of months earlier. After “Mythodea” (2001) Vangelis would continue to provide original music to promote NASA missions, most notably the “Juno” mission to Jupiter (2021).
In 2002 director György Schwajdas produced a stage play “A Vihar”, based on William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in Budapest, Hungary, for which Vangelis composed an original score. That same year the World Championship Soccer held in Japan and South Korea used a special composition by Vangelis as its main theme. The theme was released on single, as well as included on the official album.
It is not commonly known that Vangelis not only composed music, but he also expressed himself through painting. Throughout his life he created hundreds of paintings, but these were and still are mostly kept private. On occasion of the Biennal celebration of the city of Valencia in Spain, Vangelis agreed to a special exhibition of his paintings in the “El Almudín’ historical building during the summer of 2003. Visitors of the exhibition could not only enjoy a selection of 70 of his finest works, but also the specially composed athmospheric music that played in the background throughout the exhibition. A unique art book, simply titled “Vangelis”, was available for sale at the exhibition, depicting many of the paintings on display. Later also an expanded book with more paintings was issued in a limited, luxurious version, titled “Stefanoforia”.
"Ithaca" is a poem by the Greek poet Konstantinos P. Kavafis, recited by Sean Connery and musically accompanied by Vangelis. The music and narration of "Ithaca" perfectly fit together, creating a solemn and reflective atmosphere. The cd of "Ithaca" was released in 2004 as part of the published artbook "A Journey In Colour" by Micheline Roquebrune Connery (Sean Connery’s wife).
After a pause from scoring for film, 2004 brought the long awaited return of Vangelis to the silver screen with an epic score for Oliver Stone's “Alexander” (2004). The film recounts the life of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king who conquered one of the largest empires ever, stretching from Greece and Egypt to Persia and all the way to northern India. As also happened with films such as "Chariots Of Fire" (1981), "Blade Runner" (1982) and "1492 Conquest Of Paradise" (1992) a lot of the music that was composed for “Alexander” (2004) did not get included on the soundtrack release. Therefor, in order to be able to hear Vangelis’ score in a more complete form it is recommended to watch the film, preferably “The Final Cut” which is the longest version.
In 2005 Irene Papas selected the popular classic play "Antigone" by Sophocles to be staged during the 41st festival of Classical Drama in Syracuse (on the Italian island of Sicily) at the ancient Greek Theatre. As with many of her stage plays before, Vangelis provided the original score.
In a creative reunion with Greek director Yannis Smaragdis, Vangelis composed another score in 2007, for the film "El Greco" (2007). It was the second time the two worked together on a film, after their successful cooperation during the production of "Kavafis" in 1996. The title “El Greco” refers to Domenicos Theotokopoulos, one of the most influential Greek painters of all time, a subject that had inspired Vangelis earlier when he composed music for "Foros Timis Ston Greko" (1995, “A Tribute To El Greco").
To commemorate the 25 year anniversary of the film, a new version of the "Blade Runner" (1982) soundtrack album was released at the end of 2007. “Blade Runner Trilogy” is a 3 CD album release, and consists of the original 1994 album release, together with a bonus CD including previously unreleased material. The third CD is actually an entirely new album titled “BR 25” and contains new music inspired by the movie.
“Swiadectwo” (2008 “Testimony”) is a Polish documentary film based on the best-selling book by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz about the life of Karol Wojtyla, the late Pope John Paul the 2nd. Vangelis contributed music for the film which was used as the opening and closing titles of the film.
At the beginning of the new decade Vangelis was asked to compose for a new documentary by director Hugh Hudson, with whom he had earlier worked on "Chariots Of Fire" (1981). The documentary “Rupture: A Matter Of Life OR Death” (2011) is the personal story of the recovery of Hudson’s wife Maryam d'Abo, who suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage in 2007.
On the 11th of December 2011 Vangelis organised and performed an extraordinary concert at the amphitheater of the Katara cultural village in Doha, Qatar. The event was commissioned on behalf of the United Nations Alliance Of Civilizations, which held a conference in Doha at the time. The music, a choral symphony titled “Hope” composed specially for the occasion, was performed live by Vangelis, accompanied by a large symphonic orchestra and choir, a children’s choir and soprano Angela Gheorghiu and tenor Roberto Alagna. The performance was professionally recorded for a later release, but unfortunately that never happened.
Coinciding with the Summer Olympics of 2012 in London, a stage play was conceived based on the film "Chariots Of Fire" (1981). Vangelis was involved to compose new themes for the play, which of course also used the famous original theme from the movie. An album release followed, containing the new themes as well as several enhanced tracks from the original soundtrack album.
Around the same time the environmental documentary “Trashed” (2012) premiered on film festivals worldwide. The documentary by director Candida Brady is presented by Jeremy Irons (who also hosted the concert in Qatar) and uses an original score by Vangelis.
After years of preparations a unique documentary “The Journey To Ithaka” about Vangelis was released on DVD in 2013. The two-hour production by Tony Palmer is a collage of interviews with Vangelis as well as a number of friends (such as Sean Connery, Roman Polanski, Hugh Hudson and Ridley Scott), rare archive footage from behind the scenes and a sequence where Vangelis demonstrates his method of composing. Four years later Tony Palmer would issue another DVD titled “Vangelis The Interviews” which includes the integral recording of the video interview with Vangelis.
In 2014 Algerian director Mohamed Lakhdar-Hamina toured a number of European film festivals with his feature film “Crépuscule Des Ombres” (2014 “Twilight Of Shadows”). Although the film contains an original score by Vangelis (as it turned out, his last for a feature film), unfortunately it never saw a cinema or home video release after its premiere screening in Algeria.
In the same year Vangelis contributed original music to promote the ‘Rosetta’-mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). This mission where ESA landed a space probe on a nearby comet inspired Vangelis to create a new studio album titled “Rosetta” (2016), which received a nomitation for a Grammy Award in the category Best New Age album.
The next year Universal Music brought together a collection of 13 earlier released albums from the Polydor and Vertigo labels into a luxurious boxset titled “Delectus”. The LP-sized box not only contains remastered-by-Vangelis versions of the albums, including 4 bonus tracks, but also includes a large book showing many unique photos from Vangelis’ personal archive.
For his significant contributions to the arts Vangelis was awarded the French “Commandeur de Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” in 2017.
Stephen Hawking, the famous British theoretical physicist and cosmologist passed away on the 14th of March 2018. As a tribute, Vangelis composed a beautiful piece of music, set to words by Stephen Hawking, to mark the moment that the professor’s ashes were interred at Westminster Abbey in London (UK) on the 15th of June 2018. The same day ESA would broadcast the music into space towards the nearest black hole. A unique CD with the music was handed out to the attendees of the service in Westminster Abbey.
On the 25th of January 2019 the studio album “Nocturne: The Piano Album” (2019) was released on Decca Records, which includes both new and old compositions that were "inspired by night time, and by Vangelis's long-held passion for space".
“The Thread” is a theatre dance performance based on Greek traditional dance for which Vangelis created original music. The production by Russell Maliphant premiered at Sadler’s Wells Theater in London 15-17th of March 2019, and later toured through Europe with performances in Greece and Germany. The costumes were designed by Mary Katrantzou, for whom Vangelis also composed special music for her Spring Summer 2020 Fashion Show that was presented at the Temple Of Poseidon in Greece in October 2019.
The new decade started with the outbreak of the corona virus, the resulting pandemic having a major impact on the daily activities for billions of people all over the world. Many people worked from home to avoid infection, as did Vangelis when he completed the music for his next studio album “Juno To Jupiter” in 2020. The album would be postponed for an official release by Decca Records until the 24th of September 2021.
“Juno To Jupiter” (2021) is the culmination of years of Vangelis’ contributions to the NASA mission that sent the space probe 'Juno' to the planet Jupiter. Since 2013 Vangelis had provided music for promotional NASA videos related to the mission, lead by Vangelis’ friend Scott Bolton. The album, that uses sounds from the Juno launch event on Earth as well as sounds from space returned home by the Juno probe and includes the voice of soprano Angela Georghiu on several songs, would turn out to be Vangelis’ final album.
Around the same time Vangelis also provided original music for another space-themed project, the documentary “Chasing Planets For 60 Years” by Yannis Vamvakas. In over two hours the documentary details the life and vision of the Greek astrophysicist Stamatis Krigimis. The documentary played at selected film festivals, but has not (yet) been published for the general public. Some of the music however can be heard in the short film “Astronomy in Greece From Antiquity to Present”.
“Nuclear Now” (2022) is an ecological documentary by renowned director Oliver Stone, with whom Vangelis had worked earlier on his film “Alexander” (2004). Vangelis composed an original music score for the documentary, and, as it turned out, it would become his last project… In les than two hours the documentary examines the possibility of addressing climate change with a move away from fossil fuels and towards nuclear power. After doing the rounds at film festivals and special screenings, it was released to the general public in 2023.
Then on the 19th of May 2022 the sad news came that Vangelis had passed away in a hospital in Paris (France) on the 17th of May 2022. Apparently he died of heart failure, according to some sources the result of complications caused by COVID-19. The world grieved, as illustrated by the many heartfelt reactions on social media about his passing.
Although I did not know Vangelis personally, I am proud to say that I did meet him on several occasions. I feel privileged to have witnessed him performing live on stage. Thank you Vangelis, you will be greatly missed!
Vangelis’ extraordinary career, spanning some six decades, has left an indelible legacy in the world of electronic and ambient music. His timeless compositions, blending classical, electronic, and experimental elements, continue to resonate with listeners worldwide, inspiring generations of musicians and captivating the hearts and minds of music enthusiasts for ever....
Awards, nominations and honours