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CD Review

Ennio Morricone at Santa Cecilia

Cinema Concerto

Angelo Branduardi, Gemma Bertagnolli, Dulce Pontes, vocals
Chorus and Children's Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Ennio Morricone
Sony Classical SK61672 DDD 62:19
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Ennio Morricone, one of the grand masters among living film composers, was invited to conduct his film music at the Accademia by its superintendent. It took several years for the idea to become reality, but it finally did in November 1998. This CD comes from recordings made on November 7, 9 and 10 of that month. Sony doesn't say whether or not the CD was recorded in concert. For what it's worth, the composer thanks producer David Mottley and his team "for the beautiful 'live' recording." Oh, the power of punctuation!

There are 17 tracks on this CD, and music from 14 movies. The booklet tells us the director for each film, but not the date of release. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was one of Morricone's early scores, however, and there are more recent scores, such as Cinema Paradiso. The man is prolific, and dozens of similar concerts could have been organized without repeating anything, and also without scraping the bottom of the barrel. (The man also is very, very good.)

Morricone selected the music with his many fans in mind. He explains, "I finally zeroed in on the themes that I thought the public loved best."

Most composer anthologies gather together tracks from many different soundtrack recordings. The approach taken here increases this disc's coherence. Collectors who are familiar with the soundtracks will experience some surprises. Although there is a chorus – and a good one – the famous main title from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is done without the choral interjections and the strange effects that intrigued so many listeners in the first place. One of Morricone's gifts is to take an almost trivial melody and to pervert it into something intensely fascinating through unusual scoring, sometimes of the electronic variety. To my ears, Morricone has had to adapt some of that scoring for this recording, although the listing of performers includes tape and synthesizers. Morricone is too good of a composer, however, to depend solely on unusual effects, and the music still holds up fine, even if there's a feeling of something missing, from time to time.

The Accademia is a veteran of dozens of operatic recordings. Its musicians are in tune with Morricone's music, which often has an operatic grandeur – hear, for example, Casualties of War. No complaints there, and, as a conductor, Morricone has not imposed any unfortunate "second thoughts" on his music. Vocalist Angelo Branduardi brings his pleasingly fragile, "pop" voice to the song "Recordare" from A Pure Formality. Gemma Bertagnolli has the unlucky task of filling Edda D'Orso's shoes in cuts from Once Upon a Time in the West, Fistful of Dynamite, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – unlucky because her pitch is not as sure as D'Orso's, and her voice not as pure. Dulce Pontes, Brazilian at least in style, is the sexy best of the three in a song from the film Pereira Declares.

Other films represented in this collection are Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Bugsy, H2S, Love Circle, The Working Class Goes to Paradise, Burn!, and The Mission. By the way, I would be happy if Sony reissued music from Wolf. The film is not that old, and it had one of Morricone's best soundtracks of the recent past. Nevertheless, the CD is out of print. Too bad!

Copyright © 2000, Raymond Tuttle