May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Up at the Villa

Purchase from: Crotchet  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

I’m finding it more and more difficult to remember the Pino Donaggio of the 70s and early 80s. The contemporary Donaggio, unlike his youthful, perhaps somewhat impetuous self, seems to lack the spirit and originality that was so much a part of his earlier work. When I recall his beautiful, emotional melodies from Carrie (despite the fact that it was a horror movie!) Donaggio’s work here appears so devoid of inspiration. To my ears it is nothing more than background music, to be seen and not heard. And is that really all we want from a composer who is capable of so much more?

Primarily a string based work for a romantic drama set in the composer’s native Italy in the 1930’s, the main title, ‘Up at the Villa’ is a rather old-fashioned piece (although sadly not in the best sense) which is oddly oblique and much more about mood than melody. It’s all very low-key and unmemorable and this sets the tone for the work as a whole.

Brief moments of interest surface in tracks like ‘A Pistol in Florence’, ‘Tennis Plot-Flowers’ and ‘Arrivederci’, but these are very much in the minority and short-lived. The majority of the score is devoted to meandering, rather dull string and piano pseudo romanticism, which eventually becomes very tiresome. The only other distinctive score element features in tracks like ‘Party at Peppino’s’ and ‘Florence Two-Step’ which attempt to capture the authentic flavour of the musical styles of the era, but to be perfectly honest they are far from compelling and pass by without making any impact at all.

I truly can’t imagine many of Donaggio’s fans enjoying this. Melodic invention, surely the very thing that won them over in the first place, is sadly missing almost entirely here. Unfortunately, it’s all nothing more than wallpaper music.

A score that tries for an old-fashioned romantic sensibility from movies of long ago, but only really succeeds in emulating those who few of us actually remember.


Mark Hockley


Mark Hockley

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