Music Webmaster Len Mullenger



Alessandro VLAD and Stefano ARNALDI Tea with Mussolini   OST   FIRST NIGHT REELCD 101 [39:50] (UK DRG DRGCD12618)




This is an exquisite, string-dominated, varied score full of Italian warmth and nostalgia. The opening track sets the mood with a surging melody that passionately sings of caring and compassion (in Mussolini’s Fascist-dominated Italy). Soon the piano enters to add a theme very reminiscent of the popular style of previous successful Italian films like Cinema Paradiso and Il Postino.

This is a film about civilised disobedience and stars Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin a formidable barrage of feminine acting talent. Therefore, the screenplay is seen through their eyes and the harsher aspects, the military threat, is consequently more muted than would be the case if this were an action film. The composers use just cold staccato timpani beats and strings to achieve a necessary atmosphere of threat – and very successfully too (composers who go over the top in their efforts to achieve similar results might take note).

In addition to music of intrigue and suspense, which is minimal, the score includes many forms. Associated with tea rooms we have elegant Viennese waltzes, romantic tangos, and upbeat jazz and blues. We even have folk-song in the shape of No John (No John, No) There is Italian-style pastoral music. Although the album occasionally has its longeurs, they are outnumbered by many entrancing tracks. I will mention just three. (But first, I must report that the majority of tracks are given titles in Italian. Although the album lists 22 tracks, when you come to play the CD you will notice there are in fact 23 - all very confusing.) What I think is ‘Camicie nere agli Uffizi’ begins with beautiful piano ripples and arpeggios as the music meanders serenely before it modulates to allow the main theme to be stated very pensively. This introspection is, in turn brushed aside by the inhumanity of the military style material.

‘Tea Trolley’ begins dolefully with some interesting string writing, violins and cellos in disconsolate opposition before a bluesy jazz influence manifests itself. The music is still dragging its feet until a clarinet lets light into the texture and the music takes flight. Then there is the breezy spree of the ‘Autobus’ ride with muted trumpet standing in for the motor horn. This is one of the very few cues allowing coloration from the brass. It also includes saxophone, clearly this is a jolly ride.

Tea With Mussolini is the first release from First Night Soundtracks. We wish them well and look forward to more releases of the same high quality


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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