A lot has already been said about the music of the Greek musician, composer and producer Vangelis in our review of the five newly remastered reissues of Esoteric Recordings (see review). While reviewing Heaven And Hell (1975), Albedo 0.39 (1976), Spiral (1977), Beaubourg (1978) and Direct (1988) a lot had been said about his musical career. However, very little is known about his personal life, therefore I was very delighted to receive his DVD Journey To Ithaka for a review, because this release might give me and his fans world-wide an inside view into his personal life next to his musical career.
Well I was certainly right about the fact that on this release, besides the spotlight on his musical career, his personal life was talked about as well. During this two-hour documentary a camera team was allowed to film in his recording studio in Greece. For me it was rather impressive to see him play his keyboards. His studio looked more like a cockpit of an airplane or spacecraft than the usual recording studio. It's just great to watch how he improvises to the images of a movie up close. He composed so many movie scores in exactly this manner and some of those sountracks are mentioned as well. You get an inside look at how he wrote the music for films such as Antartica, Blade Runner, 1492: Conquest Of Paradise, Alexander and the Academy-Award-winning (Best Original Music Score) film Chariots Of Fire. Film directors such as Oliver Stone, Hugh Hudson and Ridley Scott speak very frankly about this musical genius and about how friendly he is towards them. Also, actors such as Sean Connery and Gérard Depardieu speak about this former Aphrodite's Child keyboard player and composer. Furthermore, you can watch short interviews with musicians that have worked with him in the past. One of them is former Yes vocalist and songwriter Jon Anderson. He talks about the music they recorded as Jon & Vangelis. The duo recorded a series of successful and critically acclaimed albums in the eighties.
The music Vangelis wrote for Mythodea - Music for the NASA Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey - is mentioned in this documentary as well. You can see interviews with the stars of this choral symphony, namely the sopranos Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle. Footage of the DVD which of these shows events was released and what a spectacular show this must have been when it was performed. The music, which was used for commercials, is another item that's highlighted and shows elements I wasn't aware of.
In May 2000, Vangelis composed the music as well as designed and directed the artistic Olympic flag-relay part of the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. While no official recording of Vangelis' composition for the 2000 Sydney Games was released, the music can be heard accompanying the presentation of the emblem of the 2004 Athens Games. Fragments of all those events are included in the DVD, next to rare historical footage of his childhood days. A different part of Vangelis' personal life is his love for painting. All of his works are displayed in his house and recording studio in Greece. He sees them as his own children and doesn't want to sell any of them, but people who have seen his work were always passionate about his talents as a painter and have asked him several times to lend them to a gallery to display his work for a larger audience to enjoy. In the end he agreed and saw the works travel to, for instance, South America.
At the start of this documentary Vangelis talks about the language of music. At the end he closes with the words that music is not a joke. Well, I can only agree with him on that, because hardly anything can give people more joy and satisfaction than the sound of great music! It doesn't matter in which country you live or what language you speak. Everybody understands what they hear coming out of their speakers! Even if it isn't the wonderful music of Vangelis!
Vangelis' Journey To Ithaka is an excellent documentary about the career of this fantastic musician, composer and producer. A must-have for all of his fans who'll have a chance to take a closer look at their musical hero!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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