April 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Ennio Morricone: The Man and His Music  
Music composed, arranged and conducted Ennio Morricone
Performed by Gilda Butta (piano), Paolo Zampini (flute), Luca Pincini (flute) and Fausto Anselmo (viola)
  Available on Warner (5101 12304-2)
Running Times:
[Disc 1]: 55:41
[Disc 1]: 49:25
Amazon UK

See also:

  • Yo-Yo Ma plays Ennio Morricone
  • The market is flooded with anthologies of the music of Ennio Morricone. This one is different in that the composer himself is conducting his own small scale instrumental arrangements of his work, and the selections, while including several of his best known pieces, largely tend away from the familiar into some relatively uncharted waters. Hence general listeners are likely to discover material which they do not already have on several other compilations. Add to that a second disc entitled Piano Music which features both concert piano music and film pieces arranged for solo piano and the result is a decidedly different Morricone set.

    See track listing below for details, but on the first disc five pieces are arranged for orchestra, the remaining 11 for a four piece chamber ensemble of piano, flute, cello and viola. Deliberately the versions here are often quite different to the film originals, the arrangements generally less iconoclastic and more clearly molded in a 20th century melodic classical idiom. Far from harming the pieces this shows the strength of Morricone’s melodies when removed from their original context and the result is a gorgeous disc which in many ways can serve as a companion piece to the wonderful Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone (on which Morricone conducted the Rome Sinfonietta and the celebrated cellist).

    Disc one sets the scene with three of Morricone’s most famous themes, gently easing the listener into the style of the recording with melodies from Once Upon a Time in the West / America and The Mission. Lovely as these pieces are it is almost a given that anyone reading this already has at least one version of each of these themes. So moving along, Cinema Paradiso excepted, the CD presents some much less familiar but equally lovely music. Cues range from the languorously menacing orchestral setting of Rampage – not a world away from Richard Rodney Bennett’s Enchanted April, if it had starred Sharon Stone with an ice pick- to the ravishingly seductive Lolita (from the Adrian Lyne version). The ‘Romanza’ from Novecento is a close cousin of Cinema Paradiso, and the piano and cello setting here is beguiling. In fact piano is very much to the fore in the latter cues on the first disc, with the tenderly introspective piano solo arrangement of the theme from The Desert of the Tartars notably contrasting with the staccato punctuations of the urgently agitated piano solo from Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

    Disc two, entitled piano music, actually continues in the same vein, with more film music arrangements filling the first half of the CD, the ‘pure’ piano music occupying the last 22 minutes. Gilda Butta performs with refinement and clear sense of melody and dynamics throughout.

    The Four Etudes are essentially atonal, largely minimalist and combine polarities of calm and unease while retaining a sombre beauty. Less immediately accessible than the composer’s film music, these pieces are in no sense ‘difficult’, and should find favour with Morricone’s more adventurous listeners.

    The album closes with Morricone’s reinterpretation of the music of Scott Joplin and the piano rag music of Joplin’s time – Fragmented Rag. Based in part on a theme Morricone wrote for the 1974 film The Infernal Trio, the reworking of ragtime is so radical as to leave the listener to join the dots. It is indeed fragmented, a composer’s musical game and a piece perhaps most listeners won’t return to very often. It makes for a somewhat disappointing conclusion to a generally very enjoyable disc, though that said most listeners will probably far prefer the more melodic and romantic first CD in the package. Nevertheless, given the set is selling for the price of a single album there really is little to lose even if you don’t care so much for Morricone’s pure music.

    Gary Dalkin

    Rating: 4

    Michael McLennan adds:-

    I can speak for only one half of the package here, and that is the Film Music CD, most of which was previously issued as part of a series of four CDs celebrating the career of Morricone and reviewed over at Dan Goldwasser’s soundtrack.net: http://www.soundtrack.net/soundtracks/database/?id=3840. It’s a beautiful small ensemble recording, with highlight treatments of themes from Moses the Lawgiver, Adrian Lyne’s Lolita, Il Deserto dei Tartar and Rampage. The previous recording has been enhanced with additional recordings from Bertolucci’s 1900 and Morricone’s more concert-hall oriented solo piano writing to fill out a two CD set. Those who have the earlier IO four CD set may want to look twice at the track list before getting this to minimize possible overlap.

    Michael McLennan

    Track Listing:

    Disc 1:

    1. Once Upon A Time In The West
    2. The Mission (Gabriel's theme)
    3. Once Upon A Time In America (Deborah's theme) *
    4. L'eredità Ferramonti (The Inheritance)
    5. Metti, una sera a cena (2nd theme)
    6. Il Maestro E Margherita (The Master and Margherita) *
    7. Il Prato (The Meadow)
    8. Lolita
    9. Rampage *
    10. Romanza from Novecento (1900)
    11. Moses
    12. Per Le Antiche Scale (Down the Ancient Stairs) +
    13. Cinema Paradiso +
    14. Il Deserto Dei Tartari (The Desert of the Tartars)
    15. Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion)
    16. Gott mit uns (The Fifth Day of Peace)
    + Accademia Nazionale Italiana, Rome
    * Roma Sinfonietta

    Disc 2:
    1. White Dog
    2. Stark system
    3. Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion)
    4. Metti una sera a cena
    5. Il deserto dei Tartari (The Desert of the Tartars)
    6. Le stagioni della vita (The Two Seasons of Life)
    7. Gott mit uns (The Fifth Day of Peace)
    8. Il potere degli angeli
    9. Love affair
      Compositions for Solo Piano:
    10. Etude for piano, 1
    11. Etude for piano, 2
    12. Etude for piano, 3
    13. Etude for piano, 4
    14. Rag in frantumi

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