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Morricone Conducts Morricone
Choir of Bavarian Radio, Munich Radio Orchestra/Ennio Morricone
TV Format: NTSC 16:9, Sound PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 – DTS 5.1, Region Code 0 (worldwide)
Director Giovanni Morricone: Producer Helmut Pauli
rec. 20 October 2004 Philharmonie in Gasteig, Munich, live EUROARTS DVD 2054698 [100:00]
Ennio Morricone’s appearance in Munich in October 2004 had been meticulously prepared. There was a thematic thread to the music he conducted that night, with paragraphs devoted to ‘Life and Legend’, ‘Socially Committed Cinema’ and ‘Tragic, Lyrical, Epic…’ If this sounds rather too schematic for comfort, it served to give wider scope to his rich array of film scores whilst taking care not to neglect those for which he is most popular.
The tautly jagged and uneasy opener – music from the 1986 Brian De Palma film The Untouchables – establishes a multiplicity of camera angles, which allows the viewer excellent perspective on the members of the Munich Radio Orchestra as well as of Morricone, head studiously in his score, beating with military precision. The music segues into Once Upon a Time in America – no applause – thus forming a kind of symphonic sequence intended presumably to stop an evening of Greatest Hits punctuated by applause. During the brief music from Cinema Paradiso we switch to watch an excerpt from the film itself
The significant period from 1968 to 1971 is explored in a series of representative scores from less-well known films. Pianist Gilda Buttą takes a significant role here and if at times the music – with some modish backbeat – is less than top drawer, it does expose the viewer to highlights from The Sicilian Clan, Love Circle and H2S, which also contain music of exquisite lyricism and tenderness. The second excerpt from Love Circle also reveals Morricone’s command of music that moves from austerity to brassy, jazz-influenced extroversion and bite. The chorus joins for Come Maddalena. It’s interesting to see how panpipe player Ulrich Herkenhoff manages to extract vibrato from his curved pipe block – he’s one of several guests who bring the composer’s trademark colour to the proceedings. Solo viola player Norbert Merkl is another.
The sequence of familiar things here, such as the three-minute excerpt from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – which is largely orchestral with special focus on the clarinet and bassoon – come in the ‘Modern Film Legends’ segment and allows us to experience the sizzling wattage of soprano Susanna Rigacci in Once Upon a Time in the West, through the music actually starts with an eloquent solo violin passage from the orchestra’s leader Henry Raudales. The first audience applause comes after music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in which Rigacci spars with the percussion and brass and the composer-conductor elicits a big, big sound from his orchestral forces. It’s a long way into the concert for applause; I had assumed it was the interval but I’m not so sure it was. The longest single sequence is the 15-minutes from Canone Inverso in which Raudales plays, excellently, the concertante fiddle role, and in which the central rather militant section both accentuates and contrasts with the surrounding extreme lyricism.
Some of Morricone’s grittier things are here and none more so than the music from La classe operaia va in paradiso (The Working Class Goes to Heaven), a 1971 film directed by Elio Petri, to which Morricone responds with an appropriately brassy and tough score. Casualties of War, another collaboration with De Palma, is clearly an underrated score as the nine minutes here demonstrate. The popular music from The Mission offers an uplifting 10-minutes with which to conclude.
The concert’s director is Giovanni Morricone, the composer’s son and a filmmaker and writer himself. He marshals the variety of cameras well and the occasional examples from the films themselves add a flavoursome element to what is already a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment. There are no bonus features, but after 100 minutes I didn’t feel the need. The music’s the thing.