Ennio Morricone - Film Music

2006-03-29 20:41

Composer and conductor, Morricone is best known to English speakers as the composer of scores for Spaghetti Westerns (Italian-produced westerns) and in particular the Fistful of Dollars series, which starred a young and handsome Clint Eastwood.

The classical music puritans often scorn movie soundtrack music. It's seen as wallpaper for the pictures. Of course, some soundtrack composers, like John "grandiose cheese" Williams, have become formulaic and don't write music that can stand on its own merits.

What these guys forget is that the great classical composers they so admire - Mozart, Bach, and the like - all had patrons. Like movie score composers, they usually composed to order for a rich person, often producing music to accompany an occasion or ceremony. Not such a different task to that of aurally illustrating a Hollywood movie! And there were tens of classical composers who weren't worth remembering.

Morricone's music, much of which is written for movie genres other than the western, is lonely, romantic, and as sparse as the image of a cowboy alone in a desert on his horse. It's deeply felt yet dignified music that, like an old movie, might fill your heart with beautiful but unreachable dreams.

As always, Morricone's strength is in balance of arrangements and lyrical melody. A subtle, brooding orchestra backs the quartet of soloists - Gilda Butta on piano, the unusually broad tones of Paolo Zampini on flute, Luca Pincini on cello and Fausto Anselmo on viola. The movie themes are explored only briefly - most tracks are under five minutes long - which will frustrate serious fans, but provides a tantalising taster for new listeners.

Film Music is by no means a complete representation of Morricone's work. For example, the theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly isn't even on the album, and his full scores often run to over an hour.

If you like this CD, longer compilations, and full soundtracks for his films, are available in most stores, and online.

* Listen to the music clips on the left for a small sample of Morricone's genius.

- Jean Barker

No other film genre is as closely defined by its music as the spaghetti Western. No other film composer has shaped music as unmistakable as Ennio Morricone. The Bolognese sauce to Sergio Leone's pasta, Morricone's cowboy soundtracks are a monument on our celluloid soundscape.
- BBC on Morricone (not specifically this CD).

You may not have heard of Ennio Morricone, but you've definitely heard his compositions in famous movies like Lolita, Cinema Paradiso, and The Mission and in old Clint Eastwood westerns. This CD provides a welcome, but much too brief, introduction to his work.

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