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Michael Adams on: Morricone Wrap: An Abbreviated Recap


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The Reeler Blog

Morricone Wrap: An Abbreviated Recap

Composer Ennio Morricone with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Feb. 2 in New York (Photo: AP)

I was about to say "famed film composer/conductor Ennio Morricone was in New York over the weekend for his first-ever US concerts..." but really, "famed" doesn't quite begin to define the maestro's appeal. One of maybe four or five scorers in cinema history with both the prowess, name recognition and cinephile cred to make a bad movie watchable (Sahara, anybody? How about Red Sonja? OK, maybe not City of Joy), Morricone first no-showed at Thursday night's MoMA screening of The Mission (something about a hold-up at the United Nations, said film curator Larry Kardish; he sent his apologies), then conducted the UN concert Friday before leading his 200-piece orchestra and choir at a sold-out Radio City Music Hall Saturday night. He picks up an honorary award at the Feb. 25 Oscar ceremony before heading back to Italy and scoring another 10 films by the end of the year.

There were several Morricone in NYC recaps available online today, with at least two forthcoming from a few colleagues around town. For those of us suckers not inclined/connected/well-heeled/sober enough to attend either program, here's where to read what we missed:

John Burlingame, Variety: "Although the maestro received six standing ovations during the evening (including the responses to three encores), the biggest hit was clearly his medley of colorful themes from Sergio Leone Westerns including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West and Duck, You Sucker, which featured the remarkable voice of soprano Susanna Rigacci. After a shaky start, she hit the high notes with the same soaring power of Edda dell'Orso, whose wordless vocals adorned the original soundtracks in the 1960s and '70s."

Glenn Kenny, Premiere:
"Considering the hundreds of films Morricone has scored, one couldn't have expected anything but the tip of the iceberg. But what a tip, as it were; the audience brought the maestro and company back for three encores (traditional encores, that is, reprising some previously played highlights); by this time the audience was worked up enough to shout out requests. ('It's like a Skynyrd concert!' my wife said.)"

Martin Steinberg, Associated Press: "Primordial vocal sounds follow against elongated and dissonant chords.

"Recorded sounds of chants, from the Middle East and elsewhere, punctuate the chords as the live choirs sing their own lingering wordless notes.

"Maddening chaos breaks out like a storm, building to horrible dissonance of machinegun-like drums and shrieks.

"Then the cathartic moment.

"The storm subsides suddenly. The tension is released and a rainbow appears — Morricone's 'Falls' melody from his Oscar-nominated score the 1986 movie The Mission."

BONUS: Steve Garmhausen's lovely tribute at The House Next Door: Morricone has, by importing ideas and styles from music literature old and new, helped to expand what is acceptable film music. Who but Morricone would have peppered Leone's Once Upon a Time in America with the pan flute of, yes, Zamfir? Extra impressive is the fact that he arranges, orchestrates and conducts all the music he writes. ... It's understandable: If you sketch out gems like "Gabriel's Oboe" from The Mission, or the lament that follows a bombing in The Battle of Algiers, why hand it off to some punk-ass functionary for completion?

Posted at February 5, 2007 5:28 PM

Comments (1)

I agree with Holden's assessment in the Times that the Radio City concert was a disappointment. Morricone is the second greatest film composer, after Benny H., of course, but he chose too many pieces that sound the same. His scores can range from gracefully lyrical to in-your-face agressive, but what occurred Sat. was The Good, the Bland, and the Blander. Neither the orchestra nor the chorus had much energy. It was an honor to be in his presence, but the concert was forgettable otherwise.

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