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Vangelis - Mythodea-Music for the NASA mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey CD (album) cover




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3.34 | 16 ratings

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3 stars I discovered the DVD of Vangelis' epic orchestral concert only after hearing the CD, which is how I would recommend anyone approach it. The music works best entirely on its own, without the crutch of visual distraction.

The mammoth event, performed by Vangelis with the London Metropolitan Orchestra and the National Opera of Greece Choir, was staged in late June 2001, outdoors on a balmy evening in Athens, Greece, at the ancient temple of Zeus, dramatically located just beneath the Parthenon. I won't critique the music itself (the CD has its own page here at Prog Archives), except to note that this is a legitimate classical performance, and not (thank goodness) another tacky space-rock concerto for electronic keyboards and symphony orchestra.

The orchestra is, by the way, enormous. I counted twelve tympani players in one shot, but that was an underestimation: there are 28 percussionists altogether, alongside the vast complement of strings, brass, woodwinds, and a pair of harpists. The choir meanwhile (in classical robes and dramatic stage makeup) numbers a full 120 singers, and that's not including the two soprano soloists who are the real stars of the show.

Vangelis is at center stage, sitting placidly behind an impressive keyboard array. By himself he does little to excite any visual interest (he ain't no Keith Emerson, put it that way). But the orchestra and singers around him, and their energetic conductor Blake Neely, more than compensate. And the many cameras catch all the action in the carefully choreographed fashion now common to concert cinematography, with lots of graceful swooping over the audience, and so forth...although I must say it's sometimes a little frightening to stare down the wide-open throat of soprano Jessye Norman during one of the diva's electrifying operatic arias.

The actual concert is enhanced by some tactful inter-cutting of related graphics (NASA computer simulations and images from ancient Greek mythology), most of which can also be seen on the large screens behind the assembled chorus. There's also a brief introduction by an almost comically camera-shy astrophysicist, and an encore exclusive to the DVD: the renowned "Chariots of Fire" title theme, of course.

Other bonus features include a twenty-minute documentary of the event (compiling outtakes from the concert, rehearsal footage, and excerpts from a press conference with Vangelis and others), and a somewhat redundant four-minute "music video", with yet more concert footage and NASA simulations. Rounding out the disc are a number of artist biographies and three commentaries (one by Vangelis himself), but none of these are audio: you'll have to read them each, I'm afraid.

It's good that a visual document of such a special event was made, and it's certainly worth seeing at least once, especially by fans of Vangelis. But watching a video concert is always a strictly passive experience, whereas listening to the music by itself (either live or on CD) actively engages the imagination in a way that can't be translated across a TV screen or computer monitor. After two or three viewings the DVD will invariably lose some of its appeal. But the music only improves with repeated playing.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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