Vangelis

Vangelis is a famous Greek composer and keyboardist. He composes and performs mainly instrumental music and film scores. During his career he has flirted with many genres and has proved to be very hard to categorize. His music has been filed as "synthesizer music", "new age", "progressive rock", "Symphonic rock", "Space music", "electronic music", etc. etc. None of those terms is spot on and his output is too varied to catch in one word.

He was born as "Evanghelos Odyssey Papathanassiou" on march 29th 1943 in a small town near Volos, Greece. He started playing the piano at the age of 4 and gave his first public performance of his own compositions at the age of 6.

As a young man in the 1960s Vangelis moved to Paris. There, he enjoyed a three-year-long “teenage rite of passage” with what became Europe’s most popular musical group, Aphrodite’s Child. Using this as a first step in the music industry, he then set out to further expand his exploration of music and sound through electronics. His poeme symphonique, Fait Que Ton Reve Soit Plus Long Que la Nuit, and the Earth album followed, as well as his impassioned soundtracks for the art and wildlife films of Frederic Rossif, most notably L’apocalypse des Animaux and Opera Sauvage.

In the mid 1970s Vangelis left Paris for London, where he established his own studio/laboratory, enabling him to further develop his musical theories and sound. Heaven and Hell, Albedo 0.39, Spiral, Beaubourg, China and See You Later - as always, composed, performed and produced by Vangelis - are resultant examples of his almost complete fusion of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, a pioneering sound that soon gained global acceptance and acclaim. In the early 1980s he released two albums of traditional music featuring Greek actress Irene Papas, as well as a series of albums with Jon Anderson of Yes.

In 1982, Vangelis’ Oscar-winning soundtrack for Chariots of Fire brought him international success even greater than that which he had already known. He then chose for his next film projects the darkly prophetic Blade Runner (early Ridley Scott), the politically dangerous Missing (Costas Gavras) and the disturbingly true Antarctica (Koreyoshi Kurahara) - all three attaining major commercial as well as artistic success, Antarctica becoming the highest grossing film ever produced in Japan.

During the 1980s, Vangelis added music for theater and the ballet to his collaborative repertoire. In 1983, he composed the music for Michael Kakoyannis’ staging of Electra, featuring Irene Papas and performed at the ancient Epidavros amphitheater in Greece. He contributed original scores for the ballets Frankenstein - Modern Prometheus in 1985 and The Beauty and the Beast in 1987, both choreographed by Wayne Eagling and performed by the Royal Ballet at London’s Covent Garden.

Vangelis also continued his film work with The Bounty (starring Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson and newcomer Daniel Day Lewis), and he released the albums Direct, Mask and Themes. It was also during this period that Vangelis’ music was used extensively for the TV series Cosmos, with astronomer Carl Sagan.

In 1989 Vangelis received the annual Max Steiner Award for composition and presentation of distinguished film music. This award, given in the name of one of the film industry’s most important and legendary composers, was presented together with their Hall Of Fame Award - an award in recognition of untiring effort in the composition of film music, adding dignity and classical artistry to the background of motion pictures.

The 1990s began with the release of the album, The City. In 1991 Vangelis served as a jury member for the Cannes Film Festival. From there he traveled to Holland, where he orchestrated and directed a live outdoor event for Europe’s Eureka Project, attracting an audience of over 250,000. In the summer of that same year he hosted, on behalf of the Greek government, its International Day of Poetry, a gala concert staged at the Herod Atticus Theater beneath the Acropolis. A tribute to the arts and literature, the concert featured guest stars Alan Bates, Fanny Ardant and mezzo-soprano Markella Hatziano.

In Paris in 1992, Vangelis composed and recorded the soundtrack for Roman Polanski’s psychological thriller Bitter Moon. He followed that with the soundtrack for 1492 - Conquest of Paradise, Ridley Scott’s epic story of Christopher Columbus. Vangelis’ main theme for 1492 began topping charts all over the world, and soon became the biggest selling record in Germany’s chart history.

The soundtrack album went on to be certified gold and platinum in over 17 countries, including Belgium, France, Holland, Italy, Spain, Austria, the U.K. and Canada, culminating with a “double top” in Germany - winning him Germany’s prestigious Echo Award as International Artist Of The Year 1995, as well as its Golden Lion for Best Film Soundtrack.

Two more awards of merit and distinction were given to Vangelis in the 1990s. In 1992, France’s Minister of Culture Jack Lang presented him with that country’s distinguished Chevalier (Knight) Award Of Arts & Letters, and the following year he received Greece’s prestigious music award - the Apollo - bestowed by the Friends of The Athens National Opera Society. It was also around this time that an ongoing relationship with scientist/filmmaker Jacques Cousteau resulted in Vangelis composing, recording and producing the soundtracks for many of Cousteau’s films, including We Cannot Permit, which premiered at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

In 1994 Vangelis released his soundtrack for the 1982 film, Blade Runner, adding several new tracks to the original - rare pirated copies of which had since become coveted collector’s items. The sensuality he culled from his synthesizers for this score - a perfect soundscape for the film’s futuristic love story - proved once again his innate mastery of technology and his ability to imbue it somehow with a soul. Numerous critics now consider Blade Runner one of the best films of the twentieth century, and the soundtrack - according to a critique on the World Wide Web - “has become as legendary as the film itself.”

Inspired by the painter El Greco, Vangelis - in association with the National Art Gallery in Athens - led a campaign in 1995 for Greece to buy El Greco’s painting of St. Peter and to establish a trust fund for the National Gallery to continue to acquire great works of art. Each of the 3,000 copies of Vangelis’ limited-edition, specially boxed CD A Tribute To El Greco (featuring performances by the great Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe and Greek tenor Konstantinos Paliatsaras) was sold exclusively through the National Gallery as an objet d’art, thus substantially contributing to this end.

Also in 1995, the global appeal of Vangelis’ work and his fascination with the Universe led the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to name a small planet in his honor. Asteroid 6354, now and forever officially called “Vangelis,” is approximately 247 million miles (mean distance) from the sun and in a 4.33-year orbit around it, wholly between Jupiter and Mars.

Close by, in space terms, are the small planets Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. Vangelis’ Voices CD, featuring vocal contributions from Paul Young, Caroline Lavelle and Stina Nordenstam was also released in ‘95.

Vangelis garnered yet another award in 1996, when he was officially recognized as the world’s largest selling Greek artist, based on the sales of his recordings, at the World Music Awards held in Monte Carlo under the patronage of Prince Albert of Monaco. In the same year, he released the compilation CD Portraits and the CD Oceanic and also composed and recorded the soundtrack for the Yannis Smaragdis film, Cavafy, an evocative portrait of the renowned Greek poet Constantinos Cavafy. His music for Cavafy won him the Best Soundtrack Award at both the Flanders International Film Festival in Belgium and the Valencia International Film Festival in Spain. In 1997, Vangelis was once again named as the world’s largest selling Greek artist at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo.

In the summer of 1997, making a rare live appearance, Vangelis designed, directed and coordinated the entire opening night ceremonies for the IAAF Summer Games for classical athleticism held at the Panathinaikon Marble Stadium in Athens, Greece. Using many of his existing musical themes, he also created several new pieces especially for the event. Thanks to the massive scope, breathtaking beauty and technical perfection of the production broadcast via live TV worldwide and the presence of high-ranking officials of the International Olympic Committee, it is widely believed that the decision to award the 2004 Olympic Games to Greece was sealed that night. In 1998, the long-sought El Greco CD, which for three years had only been obtainable through Greece’s National Gallery of Art, was at last released to the public.

In 1999 Vangelis created the music for the unveiling of the official emblem for the 2004 Olympic Games, as well as the logo music that will accompany the emblem whenever it is displayed. He also released his ten-year retrospective CD, Reprise. In May 2000, he composed the music and designed and executed the entire artistic ceremony for Greece’s handing over of the Olympic flame to Australia for the 2000 Sydney Games.

The following October, he created the music and the staging for Australia’s passing of the Olympic flag to Greece during the closing ceremonies of Sydney Olympics.

On June 28, 2001, Vangelis presented a monumental performance of his choral symphony, Mythodea at the Olympian Temple of Zeus in Athens - the first major concert ever to take place at this hallowed site. The evening featured world-renowned sopranos Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman with the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the 120-member chorus of the National Opera of Greece, twenty-eight percussionists and Vangelis performing on electronic keyboards. Chosen by NASA as the music to accompany its current Mars Odyssey Mission, Mythodea is Vangelis’ first project for Sony Classical and will be released on CD, televised internationally and available on DVD later this summer.

Perhaps the only way Vangelis could communicate his music more instantaneously and directly than he already does, would be through telepathy from his psyche to ours. Until such time, mostly using devices of his own design, he continues his method of “direct electronic intervention” - capturing, mixing and taking the music to its final execution without the influence of reasoning, the probability of alteration or the assistance of a computer. A scientist, using music as a tool, he is always on the frontier of musical discovery.

“ ... and each time I remember, I discover and I reveal something else.”
- Vangelis Papathanassiou -