Vangelis RIP, part 2

A few more thoughts today, about Vangelis’ music.

A prominent issue in his reputation is that the release of the Blade Runner score, on LP or CD, was delayed for years, a decade, for some abstruse copyright reasons. It took so long for these reasons to be cleared, that one record label brought out an *orchestrated* version of the score, released on an LP that I bought at the time but which I no longer have. Once the original soundtrack music was released, multiple album versions came to exist. I have an early limited edition CD from Off World Music, number 1665 of 2000, copyright 1993. (The movie was released in 1982.) Then I have the official release from Atlantic, on CD, copyright 1994. Much later came a three-disc “25th anniversary” box, copyright 2007 by Warner Bros., with the previously released soundtrack on disc 1, minor previously-unreleased cuts from the soundtrack on disc 2, and a third disc of remixes, some of them jazzy. I’ve failed to listen through the 2nd and 3rd discs.

Vangelis continued to do movie scores, but erratically. Obituaries call him prolific, but he was nowhere as prolific as John Williams, or any of the other routine film composers of the ’70s or ’80s.

He did two more grand movie scores: for 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and for Alexander. These are as full-bodied as anything by John Williams.

Some of his other scores had very little music. Especially for Missing, with a single very gentle, optimistic motif as the film ends, and The Bounty, beginning with a singular mournful four-note descending minor theme: it tells you, upfront, this is not a happy movie, you’re not going to get out of it alive. Vangelis was brilliant in his evoking emotion from a few notes.

He did many more studio albums, and occasional films. He’s done some scores for NASA videos. Other studio albums included concept and concert works like Mask, El Greco, Oceanic, The City, and Direct. There was even one called Invisible Connections, released originally on LP by Deutsche Grammaphone (!), which I’ve somehow neglected to replace on CD.

The late album I keep coming back to is Mythodea, a choral symphony, with a glorious duet in the last movement by sopranos Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman.

There have been several albums over the years that are, in effect, samplers or “best of” collections, worth seeking out if you have no other of his CDs. These include Themes, from 1989, including two tracks from the Blade Runner soundtrack (“End Titles” and “Love Theme,” indicated as “previously unreleased,” which was true at that time!)

Portraits came in 1996, with some of the same film cuts, and some cuts from earlier albums. Reprise in 1999 included a couple previously-unreleased themes from movies with so little music they didn’t merit full albums — themes from Bitter Moon and from The Plague.

And most recently Nocturne (2018) is a set of piano versions of numerous themes, including the duet from Mythodea, the Blade Runner love theme, Chariots of Fire, and 1492.

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