Review: Io, Ennio Morricone
1.5 / 5 Stars
Io, Ennio Morricone is a 4-disc compilation of Ennio Morricone's music, something like a greatest hits album that incorporates selections of his work from four different genres: film music, music for piano, chamber music, and symphonic music. I must admit that I was surprised to find the first disc titled "Film Music" because I was only familiar with Morricone as a composer for film. The simple fact that he has this collection speaks to his reputation as a composer and the renown of his music, but the scope of the album - as it contains four discs - places him at a level near legendary. Artists such as the Beatles or Chicago have 4-disc collections out, but it takes a considerable amount of music and fame to engender such a release. Even John Williams doesn't have an album on this scale; his Greatest Hits contains 2 CDs, though all of it is from his film music and does not include his compositions with the Boston Pops. (Though certainly he has enough material for four discs!)
And Morricone is in fact a legend in film scoring, though perhaps slightly less popular in America than patriarchs like John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, and this is primarily because many of the films Morricone scores are Italian. But some of his most famous scores include The Mission, Cinema Paradiso, The Legend of 1900, Once Upon A Time In America, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. He also recently released an album with Yo-Yo Ma playing cello arrangements of his film music (Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone), which is quite good.
As for Io, the first CD ("Film Music") contains several of his popular themes, such as The Mission ("Gabriel's Oboe") and Cinema Paradiso, but the majority of it have Italian titles, which are probably from his foreign scores. As a fan of Morricone's film scores, especially The Mission and Hamlet (the 1990 Mel Gibson version), I was disappointed to find many of the themes I knew absent from this collection. "The Ecstasy of Gold" from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which appears on Yo-Yo Ma's recording and has also been performed by Metallica, is one of Morricone's most popular themes, and is not here. Of the thirteen tracks, four of them are from scores I've heard of, and the other nine did not add themselves to my list of favorites.
The other three discs, since they are not film music, are collections of Morricone's classical-style compositions, for piano, chamber, and symphony. While each has its moments, I was not impressed overall: there is considerable down time and, though Morricone's style tends to be serene, many of these tracks rather unremarkable. The extreme of this is perhaps the piano pieces "Studio n. 1-4," which are extremely quiet but scattered with jarring louder strikes of the keys. Much of the music seems somewhat random in its orchestrations and motifs; I have not really been able to identify any cohesive themes or melodies. The first symphony is pretty good, with some nice brass arrangements, but other than that and a few cues from the piano tracks, these three disks make for a somewhat awkward listen, and the music tends to drift off into the background unless you are really focused on it.
I wanted to like this album. I have great respect for Ennio Morricone and some of his film scores are amazing and speak to his status as a legend. But I don't think this album captures that very well, as it leaves out his better work for the most part. If you want a collection of his work, buy the Yo-Yo Ma recording: it is a better sample of Morricone's work, and the cello is outstanding.
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