Everybody and their aunts know the theme to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Sergio Leone’s seminal spaghetti western masterpiece. It’s also the main draw for most of the people attending Ennio Morricone’s 60 Years of Music tour, as becomes apparent on Sunday night in Ziggo Dome. But there was more, much more to enjoy.
Together with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, the Kodály Choir from Hungary and the Csokonai National Theatre Choir, the 87 year old Maestro delivers on the promise of 60 Years of Music tonight in a packed venue. If you want to nitpick, however, it’s only really 47 years of music, as the oldest works played tonight are from the scores for H2S and Metti, Una Sera a Cena, both of which are from 1969, but I’m willing to hazard a guess that no-one in the audience tonight cares one jot for such semantics. They have come to see the Maestro at work, and for a night of musical movie history.
As soon as the lights go down at eight, both choirs and the orchestra enter the stage to an extended applause, but that applause turns thunderous as Morricone himself comes on. Looking remarkably spry at 87, the man just takes a bow and takes place on a chair by his conductor’s stand, and starts the set with Volti e fantasmi from The Best Offer. The evening is divided into small blocks, each with its own theme. This first, is aptly called A Homage To Guiseppe Tornatore. Volti e fantasmi remains a haunting piece of music, quiet and brooding and with some truly angelic singing. It’s a perfect way to start the evening and set the mood. An undoubtable highlight in this first part, next to the thunderous Ribbellione (from Baaria).
Then, after Croce d’amore, the lights go on for the first time to signal the end of the first cluster of songs, Morricone wastes no time and dives into what is undoubtedly his best known and most popular work, with Man With a Harmonica leading the pack. His work on Leone’s western epics is what Morricone is perhaps most famous for, and as soon as the title “The Modernity of the Myth in Sergio Leone’s Cinema” shows up on the two large screens on the side of the stage, the audience starts cheering. No matter how good the rest of the music is this everning, this is what they’ve come for.
And what a marvellous set it is. Following Man With a Harmonica comes Il forte, a piece so understated in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, it takes on a complete life of its own tonight, before the ensemble plays the opening track from that same movie. Jill’s Theme from Once Upon a Time in the West and Sean, Sean from A Fistful Of Dynamite follow, before the first half of the concert ends with The Ecstasy of Gold. And wow, if soprano Susanna Rigacci did not move you to tears with Jill’s Theme, she certainly will manage to do so with Ecstasy. Ecstasy brings the house down tonight (and on many other nights, I presume). To hear the band and choir firing on full cylinders is hair-raising, to say the least. What a magnificent, glorious way to end a concert, you’d think. And that’s just half of it.
The second set starts with fresh material; L’ultima diligenza di Red Rock and Bestiality from Quentin Tarantino’s western opus The Hateful Eight. Especially the first of those two is brooding and ominous. Bestiality, as my partner in crime Wander sniggered in the cinema, is “where the seven dwarfs come in.” The rest of the second set, with the exception of the pieces from The Mission, are very, very low-key, and linger more on the introspective, quiet works of Morricone. Not that it matters much, as the music itself is still beautiful, but it misses the occasional punch to shake you up. I found myself, for better or worse, drifting away from time to time, staring in the distance of the darkened venue. The regular set closes with On Earth as It Is in Heaven, from The Mission, a beautiful piece with a large part for the choir.
It takes three returns to the stage before the Maestro can finally take his final bow. The beautifully sweeping Cinema Paradiso: Nuovo cinema Paradiso is the first, a second rendition of The Ecstasy of Gold the second, and Morricone, his choirs and his orchestra for tonight, receives a well-deserved, extended applause after a magnificent version of Abolisson. This 60 Years of Music tour is well worth the time and money for every lover of classic cinema and classic music, and to see a master in his craft at work in this fashion is a privilege and a blessing. Even if, on a nitpicking, personal note, the brilliant soundtrack to the, erm, not very good 1985 Red Sonja film is still overlooked. For the sake of justice, I’ve included Kalidor’s Theme below. It has a 2:21 minute lasting still of an annoyed Arnold Schwarzenegger as an added bonus.
- Volti e fantasmi (from “The Best Offer”)
- The Legend of the Pianist (from “The Legend of 1900”)
- Ribellione (from “Baaria”)
- Chi mai (From “Maddalena”)
- H2S (from “H2S”)
- Metti, Una Sera a Cena (from “Metti, Una Sera a Cena”)
- Croce d’amore (from “Metti, Una Sera a Cena”)
- Man With a Harmonica (“Once Upon a Time in the West”)
- Il forte (from “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”)
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Main Title (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”)
- C’era una volta il west (Jill’s Theme) (from “Once Upon a Time in the West”)
- Giù la testa: (Sean, Sean) (from “A Fistful Of Dynamite”)
- Ecstasy of Gold (From the Good the Bad and the Ugly)
- L’ultima diligenza di Red Rock(from “The Hateful Eight”)
- Bestiality(from “The Hateful Eight” and “The Thing”)
- Deborah’s Theme (“from “Once Upon a Time in America”)
- Addio monti (dal film ‘I promessi sposi’)
- Thème de Vatel (from “Vatel”)
- Per le antiche scale (Preludio)(from “Per le Antiche Scale”)
- Irene-Dominique (from “L’eredita Ferramonti”)
- Do Dreams Go On (from “The Red Tent”)
- They’re Alive (SOS) (from “The Red Tent”)
- Other Who Will Follow Us (from “The Red Tent”)
- Gabriel’s Oboe (from The Mission)
- Falls (from “The Mission”)
- On Earth as It Is in Heaven (from “The Mission”)
- Cinema Paradiso: Nuovo cinema Paradiso
- Ecstasy of Gold (From the Good the Bad and the Ugly)
- Abolisson (From ”Queimada”)
Review by Ralph Plug