In the world of film music, Ennio Morricone (b. 1928) occupies a haloed position as other great composers like John Williams, John Barry and Henry Mancini. At 92 years old, Morricone’s music career spans half a century, during which he has written scores for more than 500 movies and TV series as well as works for the concert hall.
Although his name will always be synonymous with the spaghetti Western – most famously, A Fistful of Dollars, 1964 and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, 1966 – he has also written scores for a huge range of film genre. Among them, the romantic drama Maddalena (1971) for which he wrote two of his finest movie themes, ‘Come Maddalena’ and the exquisite ‘Chi Mai’, the missionary drama The Mission (1986), the crime thriller, The Untouchables (1987), and Guiseppe Tornatore’s art film Cinema Paradiso (1989) which inspired some of Morricone’s most moving and melodic music.
In 2007, Morricone received an honorary Oscar ‘for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music’, and in 2016, he won his first competitive Oscar for his score to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, the first time he composed a score for a western in forty years.
Here are my personal Morricone favourites – soundtracks for The Mission (1986) Cinema Paradiso (1989) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984).
Cinema Paradiso – Yoyo Ma (cello) and Chris Botti (trumpet)
Next is the wistful tune, Deborah’s Theme from the soundtrack of mobster-drama, Once Upon a Time in America (1984). The film, directed by Sergio Leone, Morricone’s long-time collaborator, stars Robert De Niro and James Wood.
And now, the master himself directing his 1986 masterpiece, the main theme from The Mission with the Munich Radio Orchestra.
And finally, the moving Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission (1986), rendered by the warm sounds of the cello.