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Ennio MORRICONE (b. 1928)
His Greatest Hits
Cinema Paradiso: Movie Theme [2:15]; Love Theme [3:12]
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion [3:00]
A Pure Formality: Ricordare [3:29]
Bugsy [4:28]
H2S [2:46]
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Titles [3:04]; The Ecstasy of Gold [3:28]
Once Upon a Time in the West [2:54]
A Fistful of Dynamite [4:06]
Love Circle [5:21]
Pereira Declares: A Brisa do coração [3:45]
The Working Class Goes to Heaven [3:59]
Casualties of War [5:37]
Burn!: Abolição [4:49]
The Mission: Gabriel’s Oboe [2:17]; On Earth as It Is in Heaven [3:36]
Angelo Branduardi (vocals), Gemma Bertagnolli (vocals) (8-10), Dulce Pontes (vocals) (12),
Orchestra and Choruses of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Ennio Morricone
rec. November 1998, Auditorium of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome
SONY 88985 354872 [62:19]

Since 1946 Ennio Morricone has composed more than 500 scores for cinema and television and also more than 100 classical works. Directors he has worked with include Sergio Leone, Giuseppe Tornatore, Bernardo Bertolucci and Roman Polanski. On the present disc, recorded in Rome in 1998, he conducts the forces of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in a varied programme of music from some of these films.

He excels in many different styles, eclectic maybe but still personal. His melodic invention is undisputed and many of his themes stick at once. The concert opens with two themes from the 1988 drama film Cinema Paradiso. The title theme begins softly with piano – very beautiful indeed – and is followed by the love theme, which is just as beautiful and deliciously orchestrated. Back in time to 1970 we meet Elio Petri’s crime drama Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, with a cheeky and mysterious march that is decidedly Prokofievian.

A Pure Formality is a thriller from 1994, featuring Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski. The ‘Ricordare’ is well sung by Angelo Branduardi, himself a successful singer/songwriter.

Bugsy is a 1991 film about Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, one of the most “infamous and feared gangsters of his day”. He was also a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip. He was shot dead by his girlfriend in 1947, aged 41. The title role was played by Warren Beatty and the film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning two. The suggestive theme is rather ominous.

H2S is a surreal Italian science-fiction fantasy about a student revolt at a futuristic university from 1969. The music is chiefly neo-baroque.

Sergio Leone’s “Spaghetti Westerns” were enormously popular during the second half of the 1960s, and Morricone’s music certainly contributed to that. Here is music from three of them: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and possibly the least well-known A Fistful of Dynamite (1971). The four excerpts are here joined into a continuous suite with chorus, orchestra and the excellent soprano Gemma Bertagnolli – best known as a distinguished baroque specialist but here soaring above the orchestra in beautiful vocalises. There is a great deal of pomposity here but also nobility.

Love Circle – the Italian original title was Metti, una sera a cena – is a drama film from 1969, directed by Giuseppe Patroni-Griffi. To judge from the music it is full of hidden conflicts.

Pereira Declares is a novel by Antonio Tabucchi, which was filmed in 1995 with the late Marcello Mastroianni in the title role. The film was, according one source, titled According to Pereira. The song ‘A Brisa do coração’, with minimalist accompaniment, is sung here by Dulce Pontes.

Elio Petri’s The Working Class Goes to Heaven is a political drama film from 1971, and the music shows strong influences from Dmitri Shostakovich. Casualties of War is a drama film from 1989 directed by Brian De Palma and featuring Sean Penn. Another iconic actor, Marlon Brando, featured in the historic drama Burn! from 1969. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo it tells the story of the British secret agent William Walker who in the 1840s was sent to an island in the Caribbean to break up Portugal’s sugar monopoly. Walker (Brando) incites the slaves to revolt and the music here is gospel-like with high trumpets and heavy percussion. A truly awesome piece!

Finally two pieces from Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986) – also an historic drama, where a Jesuit priest (Jeremy Irons) goes to South America to convert the natives to Christianity. Robert De Niro and Liam Neeson also figure prominently. Morricone’s music was nominated for an Academy Award and the Heavenly ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ is certainly one of his most beautiful creations. ‘On Earth as it is in Heaven’ begins softly with chorus a cappella and then there is a hefty change to a magnificent finale to the whole programme with percussion and brass backing up the chorus.

With magnificent recording, excellent performances of soloists, chorus and orchestra and the extra bonus of having the composer conducting his own music, this disc is a must for lovers of big, bold and romantic film music.

Göran Forsling

 

 




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