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Come Un Delfino
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • Sony Music Italy / 2011 / 45:10

As is often the way with Ennio Morricone scores, I know next to nothing about the film it accompanies.  What I do know: it’s an Italian tv movie, directed by Stefano Reali.  The IMDB’s plot synopsis is: “A man is forced to retire from competitive swimming due to a heart condition.”  It doesn’t sound like the sort of thing which will knock the FA Cup Final off the top of the viewing ratings, but you never know.  It is the fifth film that the great composer has scored since 2009’s Baaria but, incredibly, the previous four have not been released on CD.  Can you imagine it – we get soundtrack releases of synthetic garbage composed by total non-entities whose only qualification to scoring a $200m blockbuster is that they once buffed Hans Zimmer’s shoes for him (and wrote an uncredited half an hour’s material for a Dreamworks animation) and yet the greatest living film composer is still writing at an extraordinarily prolific rate given his age (82!) – and nobody releases the music?  Bizarre.  

Deliriously romantic, sun-drenched music may be the last thing you expect to find in a film about a competitive swimmer forced to retire due to a heart condition, but it’s the first thing you expect to find in an Ennio Morricone score since about 2000, and indeed it’s the first thing you do find.  The opening four tracks are all like this.  First, the full orchestra and choir, in the titular piece which opens.  Then, a rapturous piano theme, in the catchily-titled “Confidenzialmente”.  Then, a version of the main theme for wordless soprano (Flavia Astolfi) in “I ragazzi del sole”.  Then, a quite blissfully warm version for two harmonicas (I can tell it’s two since it’s called “Una gara per due armoniche”).  I’ve no idea how he does it, keep churning this stuff out (and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way) – OK, it’s pretty safe to say we’re not going to get another “Ecstasy of Gold”, but to write these glorious melodies, so many of them for score after score, year after year – it’s remarkable.

Ennio Morricone

Of course, no blissful melodic delight from Morricone can be found without some suspense music lurking just around the corner, but even when that comes it’s entirely palatable in the first instance, and immediately after “I peggiori” comes another gorgeous version of the theme, with distinctive little piano figures jabbering accompaniment, in “Dentro la Vittoria”, which I imagine is a paean to Vittoria’s teeth.  Things do get a little tougher from there on – “Scippo” is the kind of Morricone suspense music which borders on the interminable, and while the harmonica of “Tuffi nel buio mare” (which translates, I assume, as “Toffee of the good sea”) adds some real flair, otherwise that’s more of the same.

A second, very different, version of “Confidenzialmente” is interesting, for solo electric guitar – the lilting theme so distinctively Morricone, but it sounds a bit odd to hear him presenting it in this way.  Another version of the main theme (this time sans choir) follows; then yet another beautiful piece, “Entusiasmo Giovanile”, with gorgeous woodwind writing.  The disc concludes with a ten-minute piece called “Rock?” (which translates as “Rock?”) – unfortunately this is the 14,523rd time in his career that Morricone has opted to conclude an album consisting largely of sweeping romantic music with a lengthy piece full of nail-biting tension.  Low-end piano, ominously swirling strings frequently interrupted by piercing stings, then after a few minutes of that, out come the keyboards and drum kit and outrageously stylish violin parts and all of a sudden we’re back in The Exorcist II.  Very odd, seeming to belong in an entirely different score, but apart from the barely-listenable opening, actually quite brilliant.

This is a fine score with many moments of note.  By Morricone standards it is nothing special – even in terms of his most recent output, it’s no Baaria, for sure – and my enthusiasm for hearing any new music from this grand old master may leave me foaming at the mouth in my prose above where others may be more inclined so slightly shrug their shoulders.  But who cares?  Anyone buying this album is likely to have that very same enthusiasm, and frankly if you can’t forgive an 82-year-old man for writing music that lacks that dazzling creativity which was once his hallmark, then you are a pretty harsh individual!  A little uneven it may be, but Come Un Delfino contains some real quality.  *** 1/2

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