Notes and Editorial Reviews
Ennio Morricone, cond; Roma Sinfonietta
Cinema paradiso; Once upon a Time in America; The Legend of 1900; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Once upon a Time in the West; A Fistful of Dynamite; La luz prodigiosa; The Battle of Algiers; Sacco e Vanzetti; Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion; Sostiene Pereira; La classe operaia va in paradiso; Casualties of War;
Queimada-Abolisson; Il deserto dei Tartari; The Mission
Having collected nearly all of Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks on CD, I was eager to see a live concert by him. I began hunting for a DVD recording but nothing turned up on the Net. A friend had once told me that he had seen Morricone perform live in London. Surely some live performance of his must have been filmed? But from 2000 to 2005, no video turned up. Then, in 2006, a CD turned up with Yo-Yo Ma playing Morricone. It was a double disc, and contained a video recording of scraps in the studio: Yo-Yo rehearsing with Ennio looking on, and then a conversation between the two with Morricone speaking only in Italian. I gave up and stopped looking. And then, unexpectedly, not too long ago, while browsing amazon.com for something, I came across not one but two DVD recordings! “Morricone Conducts Morricone” and “Arena Concerto.”
From where and why had these concerts suddenly turned up? It did not take me long to realize why they were now made available widely: it was Morricone’s recent  lifetime achievement Oscar for film music composition that had prompted such renewed attention. Researching a little more, I discovered these concerts were held as early as 2002 but released on DVD in North America only in 2006 and 2007. It seems a shame that Morricone, arguably the most lyrical film composer in the world, should have to wait for a dubious honor such as the Oscars before he could become noticed again.
I’m choosing here to review the better of the two, the “Arena Concerto,” recorded live in Verona, 2002, with Morricone himself conducting the Roma Sinfonietta. It contains interesting extras with Morricone interviews and a documentary of his discography. My favorite Morricone score is
. It moves me to tears every time I hear it, especially “Gabriel’s Oboe” and “On Earth as It Is in Heaven.” Morricone saves this theme for the concert finale with a huge polyphonic choir joining in. The passion on the face and fingers of the musician playing the oboe here is palpable. I once had the pleasure of interviewing Roland Joffe, the director of
. I was curious in particular about how Morricone came to compose the music for the film. Here are a couple of extracts:
: I’d love to know how Morricone came to score the music. It has to be one of the greatest movie scores ever composed. And probably his best.
: I think he would agree with you there. One of the producers was Italian—Fernando Guia—and he brought Morricone to the movie. When Ennio first saw
, it was a cut that had some other music. Something classical. At the end of the screening he was weeping. I could see he had tears running down his face. I came up to him and he burst out in Italian. (Joffe mimes Morricone, gesticulating and speaking in perfect Italian.) What he was saying was that he couldn’t make the music for this. He was too affected by it. That’s a good sign, my producer assured me, when Ennio Morricone says he can’t do it, he usually does something extraordinary.
: “Gabriel’s Oboe” and “On Earth as It Is in Heaven” are truly extraordinary movie themes. In part, I feel,
is so inexplicably moving because of that score.
: Some think it simple. But its “simplicity” comes from great austerity.
This DVD contains nearly all of Morricone’s famous scores, and then some that are not as well known. Sometimes the same theme (as in
Once Upon a Time in America
is played with variations. There’s a lovely symphonic version of
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly; Cinema Paradiso; Once Upon a Time in America; Battle of Algiers;
and many more memorable Morricone themes are played to perfection in both versions. When conducting, Morricone is restrained, sensitive, and impassioned. And very modest. At the end of every theme, he points the applause in the direction of the orchestra, the choir, and the soloists. Fortunately, the themes are not accompanied by film clips, which would have only proved distracting. We’re happier just watching Morricone and his musicians. “Arena Concerto” is in widescreen with 5.1 DTS sound. Morricone has been called “The Picasso of Film Music,” and this concert recording demonstrates why he fully deserves this title. I enthusiastically recommend the DVD.
FANFARE: Pradeep Sebastian
* DVD Extras include bonus interview with Ennio Morricone (with subtitles and biography of the composer)
* Format: NTSC, Region 0 Coded
* Run time: 191 MIN
* Sound: Stereo Read less
Works on This Recording
Cinema Paradiso: Excerpt(s) by Ennio Morricone
Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1988; Italy
The Mission: Excerpt(s) by Ennio Morricone
Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
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