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Alexander - soundtrack by Vangelis

Alexander - Vangelis' soundtrack CD cover A new film soundtrack by Greek composer Vangelis (full name Evangelos Papathanassiou) is something of an event, because his film scores have been increasingly rare in recent years. Following early successes with "Bladerunner" and "Chariots of Fire" which displayed the composer's affinity with synthesiser-based music, we were later treated to "1492: Conquest of Paradise". Since then Vangelis has concentrated on other projects including the album "Mythodea" commissioned to celebrate NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey Mission. This was a departure for the composer because the album was fully acoustic, performed by a large orchestra and choir. For his epic "Alexander" director Oliver Stone persuaded Vangelis to return to film scoring and we assume to impart some authentic Greek spirit into the movie. The resulting soundtrack gives us both synthesiser and acoustic music blended into an organic whole which suggests the geography of Alexander the Great's conquests.

The soundtrack is often grand and epic in scope but is also cabable of being intimate. Many of the tracks on this album flow into each other without a break which creates the feeling of a single symphonic work. Some of the key tracks include "Titans" which introduces a grand theme for Alexander - an ostinato pattern on strings (reminding us of "1492") followed by voices herald this theme which builds into a powerful statement for brass and voices. The theme later makes a re-appearance in "Dream of Babylon". "The Drums of Gaugamela" suggests the military conquest which characterises Alexander's reign, starting with an ominous fanfare which then introduces a continuous drum pattern, ethnic vocal parts sung by the Epirus Polyphonic Ensemble with orchestral counterpoint from the brass and other orchestra sections. A number of the middle tracks are more personal with well-chosen instrumentation giving an exotic feel. "Eastern Path" is very much an atmospheric track which, over a synthesised drone, features the duduk an instrument native to Armenia and the surrounding countries including Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Roxane's Veil" is a very modern sounding one with synth chords, bass, harp and gentle percussion introducing a wonderfully heady romantic theme on solo violin played by Vanessa Mae. It's the sort of track which could easily find itself on Vanessa Mae's next album or accompanying adverts on TV. Among the closing tracks which round off the soundtrack is "Across the Mountains" which in many ways is a typical Vangelis track with its hymn-like lyricism, ostinato rhythm and characteristic chord patterns.

Overall this is an excellent soundtrack by Vangelis, which manages to give us a certain consistency in thought, sounds and instrumentation while simultaneously presenting a great variety of moods and perspectives. The whole is thus very well balanced and satisfying to listen to.

Availability and Track listing

This soundtrack is available now from most record stores and at the following online links where the music can be previewed: Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The full track listing follows:

  • Introduction - a grand intro whose swells on synth brass, strings and percussion hint at the epic to follow
  • Young Alexander - introduces choral sounds and sustains a majestic grandeur
  • Titans - a suitably grand main theme for Alexander
  • The Drums of Gaugamela - very much a war-like track
  • One Morning at Pella - delicate oboe and harp sounds bring a moment of peace and calm - a stark contrast to the martial sounds of the previous track
  • Roxane's Dance - an intoxicating mix with harp glissandi and ethnic woodwind solos over a percussion rhythm
  • Eastern Path - atmospheric track led by Duduk
  • Gardens of Delight - another exotic dance track including harp glissandi
  • Roxane's Veil - with Vanessa Mae on violin
  • Bagoas' Dance - some unusual percussion and synthetic sounds provide the backing for this rhythmic dance, which heralds
  • The Charge - this militaristic track with apocalyptic voices
  • Preparations - leading to another tension-building track with martial drums and gong
  • Across the Mountains - related to the main Alexander theme this is a typical Vangelis track with its hymn-like lyricism, ostinato rhythm and chord patterns
  • Chant - dark and funereal
  • Immortality - more peaceful suggesting immortality in either the religious or historical sense
  • Dream of Babylon - re-introduces the Alexander theme from "Titans" to round off the album in a nicely symmetrical way
  • Eternal Alexander - an uplifting hymn-like anthem with wordless voices whose accompaniment suggests a stately march on horseback
  • Tender Memories - a simple ethereal track vaguely reminiscent of the theme from Chariots of Fire

For more information about the movie including the film trailer see the official Alexander the Movie website.