VIENNA — Yanni, the legendary performer and composer, celebrated the 25th Anniversary of his ‘Live at the Acropolis’ performance with a dynamic world tour stop at Wolf Trap on July 29.
The pianist and keyboardist, now 63, proved that the years since his breakthrough performance in Athens have only added to his artistic abilities. Whether skillfully playing the grand piano or jamming on seven synthesizers, the contemporary music maestro wowed a baby-boomer audience that showed its appreciation with non-stop applause and cheers.
It was Sept. 25, 1993 when Yanni produced a concert at his own expense at the Acropolis that was shown on PBS, introducing him to fans around the world. The album would go on to sell nearly five million albums worldwide and would catapult him into fame. He would later produce concerts at such exotic places as Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in Beijing.
At Wolf Trap, he transported the audience back to that historic moment in Athens, saying “We’re going to have fun and celebrate life. We want you to feel the emotions we were feeling at the Parthenon.” He noted that a highlight of the concert was looking into his mother’s eyes and playing ‘Keys to Imagination’ which she had never heard live. “I could see what it was doing to her emotionally,” said Yanni, before moving into the melody. The upbeat ‘Felitsa,’ followed, and violinist Lindsay Deutsch and bassist Gabriel Vivas performed stunning solos that incorporated music ranging from jazz to classical to rock, garnering thunderous applause.
The 20-song set allowed the spotlight to be shown on several other talented band members whose ethnic backgrounds compose a mini United Nations. Armenian violinist Samvel Yervinyan played a stirring solo that showed why he is considered one of the best violinists in the world, and Russian cellist Alexander Zhiroff dazzled with a complex harmonic run that Yanni had him to slow to a snail’s pace so that the audience could hear every note.
On ‘Nightingale,’ soprano Lauren Jelencovich performed the only song with vocals during the nearly three hour show, hitting piercingly high notes with control and ease. Yanni’s memory of walking in nature as a child with his father who taught him to live life to the fullest was the inspiration for the melodic and tender ‘Until the Last Moment,’ while drummer Charlie Adams brought down the house with a smoking 5-minute drum solo on ‘Marching Season.’
Freeman got to shine on the piano before the tempo slowed for the lush and moving, ‘One Man’s Dream.’ It was a chance for Yanni to call for respect for the Earth and tolerance for all people, noting that, “We are all one and interconnected.”
The closing number, ‘The Storm,’ was a display of unparalled virtuosity as violinists Deutsch and Yervinyan electrified the stage with their playing that was a nod to Vivaldi’s Summer (The Four Seasons). The evening may not have totally replicated the 1993 historic event with its dramatic 2,000 year-old setting, but, for Yanni fans, it was a more than thrilling tribute to that iconic moment.
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