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Sunday, May 07, 2006

DVD REVIEW - Morricone Conducts Morricone

Morricone Conducts Morricone
Euroarts DVD 2054698
Region Code 0 100 mins

There has never been a better time to be alive, if you're a fan of the great Ennio Morricone. Not only is the maestro still turning out quality new film scores, but we are fast approaching the happy position of having just about every score he ever wrote available on CD, with premiere issues as well as expanded versions of his back catalogue appearing all the time. And now, following the wonderful Arena Concerto DBD release a couple of years back, we have yet another of the great man's concerts available on DVD.
The Euroarts release features a concert given with the Munchner Rundfunkorchester and Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks at the Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munichon 20th October 2004, with Morricone conducting the orchestra, and features soloists soprano Susanna Rigacci, pianist Gilda Butta, Ulrich Herkenhoff on panpipes, Henry Raudales on violin and Norbert Merkl on viola.
The programme features a good deal included on the Arena Concerto disc, though some of the selections from those films are different. The programme plays almost continuously, with just a couple of breaks for audience applause, and is broken down into five sections - Life and Legend, Single Pages, Sergio Leone: Modern Film Legends, Socially Committed Cinema and Tragic, Lyrical, Epic…
The concert kicks off with music from The Untouchables, though sadly not the wonderful main theme. This is quickly followed by a suite from the ever popular Once Upon a Time in America, incorporating "Deborah's Theme," "Poverty" and the "Main Theme." On Arena Concerto, there was a lengthy suite from The Legend of 1900, whilst here only one brief selection is included. This is followed by the theme from another popular score Cinema Paradiso, and we are treated to some clips from the film.
The second section kicks off with the rare 1968 score for H2S, which showcases piano. This and the following three film scores do not feature on Arena Concerto, which alone makes this DVD worth seeking out. The theme from The Sicilian Clan follows, then two selections from another 1969 film Love Circle, with "Come Maddalena" from 1971's Madalena closing the section.
The Sergio Leone selections commence with another piece from Once Upon a Time in America; "Cockey's Song" gives us the rare opportunity of seeing panpipes in action and Herkenhoff does well without quite capturing the feel of the original. Speaking of which, the original sound of Morricone's western scores is impossible to reproduce on stage and, whilst Morricone's concert arrangements take a little getting used to, the themes are so great that one is soon caught up in the wonderful music; and the composer always seems at his most animated when conducting these pieces, so perhaps he has a certain fondness for them. There follow then the themes from The Good, the Bad and The Ugly, again accompanied by clips from the film, Once Upon a Time in the West and A Fistful of Dynamite, with possibly the composer's greatest theme ever "The Ecstasy of Gold" from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly concluding the westerns. Ms Rigacci does here best on the latter two, but no one can possibly match Edda's original performances. For some reason, 1999's Canone Inverso concludes this section, although the film was directed by Ricky Tognazzi. A wonderful 14-minute concerto, with a strong performance from Raudales proves a highlight of the disc, and is not present on the Arena Concerto DVD.
The next section begins with the theme from Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and is followed by According to Pereira, which sadly suffers a little without the impassioned vocals of Dulce Pontes. The other two pieces in this section are from The Working Class Goes to Heaven and a lengthy Casualties of War.
Finally, we have the theme from The Desert of the Tartars, which is the last selection to be accompanied with some tantalising footage from the film; with the splendid suite from The Mission concluding the concert as only it can.
We are so lucky to have two fine recordings of Ennio Morricone concerts on DVD. I just wish that someone had captured an Elmer Bernstein or Jerry Goldsmith concert while these great film composers were still with us. There's still hope for a John Williams recording - please someone, before it's also too late.


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