As shown here, Ennio Morricone as conductor
is quite unassuming - one might even say impassive: his stick technique, mild.
That being said, the music from his large Munich Radio Orchestra is full
blooded and romantic, doing full justice to this popular, evergreen film music.
The sound quality is excellent, particularly heard in full Surround Sound with
a lovely sheen to the strings, full-toned, resounding brass and firm, clear
bass responses. Morricone’s scores, in this concert, stretch from those
spaghetti westerns (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) (1966) to Canone
Inverso (1999), the latter represented by the rhapsodic ‘Making Love’
featuring violin soloist Henry Raudales in music of dissonance, poignancy and
stirring heroism. Silver-haired Gilda Buttà, bucking a formally-attired trend
by appearing bare-midriff, gives sterling support positioned well back in the
orchestra to provide a percussive piano role and, occasionally, a solo spot
If there is one small gripe in this
excellent release, it is this: there is little scope for identifying the films.
A few clips are scattered through the programme: Cinema Paradiso,
an amalgamation of the spaghetti westerns, and The Desert of the Tarters (1976).
Personally, I would have welcomed a few briefly shown, small-sized stills
tastefully inset into the concert-hall pictures to remind us of the familiar
films and to inform us of the less well-known productions.
It is the lesser known scores that have so
much appeal. Take for instance Morricone’s arresting music for the film H2S (1968);
this score has a fascinating hypnotic quality about its repetitive motor
rhythms, and there is an appealing childlike, bouncy jollity as well as
imposing Bach-like chorale material. Likewise The Sicilian Clan (1969)
grips the ear with its snare-drum ostinatos and guitar patterns below the
strings’ elegiac pathos. The two Love Circle (1971) excerpts impress
too. ‘Uno che grida amore’ is an especially powerful piece with persistent
piano dissonances, brushed cymbals and brass drones. The Working Class Goes
to Heaven (1971) has a grimy realism about it. Morricone’s noisy creation
suggests factory sirens and sweated labour amongst heavy machinery and there is
a hint of Bernard Herrmann in the relentless cutting rhythms and quirkiness of
his score for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1969).
Of the better known scores there is the
sinister music for The Untouchables (1986), the haunting tune of The
Legend of 1900 (1998), and it is interesting to see panpipes in action as
played by Ulrich Herkenhoff in ‘Cockey’s Song’ from Once Upon a Time in
America. Other excerpts from this magnificent score include: the enchanting
‘Deborah’s Theme’ played with measured, mounting passion, and the clarinet
melody that is ‘Poverty’ so imbued with Italian melancholy and nostalgia.
Soprano, Susanna Rigacci conveys in lovely legato lines the sweet melancholy of
the love theme of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and, with the
choir, sings a more siren-like song powerfully suggesting all the evil lust for
gold in Morricone’s music for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
The concert concludes with music from The
Mission (1986). In addition to the celebrated oboe melody, and that flute
theme, the suite ends gloriously with the jubilant hymnal.
A concert to be treasured by all Morricone fans.
Gary Dalkin adds:-
This disc is a DVD presentation of a
concert conducted by Ennio Morricone on 20 October 2004 in Munich, with the composer directing the Munich Radio Orchestra and Choir in a performance of
music from 18 of his film scores. (see track listing below this review). For
any film music fan it is an excellent, thoroughly enjoyable disc. I can not but
agree with Ian’s comments on the music.
I would note that, excellent as the DTS and
Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is – with generally well balanced mixes with the music
focused across the front sound-stage supporting ambience from the rear speakers
– there is a tendency to mix solo instruments at an un-naturally loud level,
making the concert seem more like a soundtrack album than a live performance.
Conversely I noticed a occasions when I could see an instrument being played -
but at least when played back in stereo PCM on my PC – could not hear it at
all. This particularly applied to some percussive piano chords in the opening The
Untouchables. Still, the DTS and DD mixes when played back through a high
quality home cinema system sound both lush and extremely powerful.
The concert itself is filmed with admirable
restraint, mostly from locked down still cameras, occasionally with an
elegantly smooth tracking shot. Editing is simple and unobtrusive. Visual
gimmickry in camera work and editing is entirely absent. In fact the style is
very much akin to a BBC television broadcast of a classical concert. IN this
setting, like Ian I found little purpose to the film clips used, thankfully
sparingly in a few selections. All they served to do was distract me from the
presentation and remind me I was watching a DVD and was not actually at the
concert. The clips themselves are not of especially high quality, with the
footage from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly looking like it came from a
damaged old print transferred slightly out of focus – a far cry from the superb
image clarity of the recent DVD of the film. This is though a minor complaint
in context. The clips occur only briefly in a handful of selections.
Finally, being the grumpy old man I am, I
feel compelled to make a principled objection. This is a EuroArts DVD release
of a German concert by an Italian composer. The disc is manufactured in the
European Union, which, with the exception of the France, exclusively uses the
technically superior PAL television system. Yet the disc is manufactured for
the NTSC television system. This can only have been done to maximise sales in
the American market without having to go to the trouble of making separate PAL
and NTSC versions of the title. In the US it is not the norm to have DVD
players capable of processing PAL signals, whereas the rest of the world,
though largely PAL equipped, is generally quite capable of playing NTSC discs.
So while we in Europe can play the disc, and see a very good picture, that
picture is not as good as it should be because the disc is an NTSC conversion
rather than a pure PAL original. Not only is there the matter of the loss of
100 lines of picture information, but the image demonstrates that clearly
processed, artificial look which is hard to describe but easy to spot, and
results from PAL material being converted to the NTSC format. The prospective
argument that it would be economically unfeasible to produce separate PAL and
NTSC versions of this title is hard to maintain.
Despite my grumbling, this is an excellent
concert with a presentation that is still very good. It looks as good as a top
quality digital TV broadcast and sounds as good as the best DVD releases. Few
can object too much to that.
- The Untouchables
- Once Upon a Time in America – suite
- The Legend of 1900
- Cinema Paradiso
- The Sicilian Clan
- Love Circle
- Love Circle
- Once Upon A Time in America – Cockey’s Song
- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- Once Upon A Time in The West
- A Fistful of Dynamite
- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly –Ecstasy of Gold
- Canone Inverso – Making Love
- Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
- According to Pereira
- The Working Class Go to Heaven
- Casualties of War
- The Desert of The Tartars
- The Mission