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From Hell to Victory
  • Composed by Riz Ortolani
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2012 / 63:33

A 1979 film set in Paris during the second world war, From Hell to Victory (slightly oddly known as Contro 4 Bandiere in Italian) sounds like it could have been really good.  It follows six friends of various nationalities who declare on the eve of the war that they will meet on that day in the same cafe in Paris each year hence.  Unfortunately, if the reviews are anything to go by, it didn’t live up to its potential.  Riz Ortolani’s score is surprisingly light, providing a Parisian ambience that takes its cue from the music of the time but, apart from brief bursts here and there, doesn’t give much of an impression of being set during the war until well into the album.  The two main themes are both very attractive, lovely melodies which Ortolani sends through a large number of variations through his score.  At times heard from the full orchestra, at others a much stripped-down ensemble when the music plays more as source music, they’re always nice to hear.

The darker material doesn’t arrive until half way through the album – things take a turn in the second track called “Fabienne Theme” (which doesn’t seem to have anything in common with the first track called “Fabienne Theme”) and then particularly in “Toward the Victory”, which features harrowing string writing suggesting the great cost at which the victory has been achieved.  This is explored further in the third “Jurgen and Fabienne”, far darker than its two predecessors, which shows the relationship between the French and the German friends has become understandably rather more difficult.  There isn’t much in the way of what might be called action music, though the martial “Accounts to Render” offers a jarring interlude towards the end.  It’s easy to see what Ortolani was aiming for – underscoring the changing nature of the friends’ relationship as the war progresses – and he achieves it cleverly.  It’s a decent album, though never quite catches fire the way his best do.  *** |

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  1. André-Cape Town. (Reply) on Wednesday 15 August, 2012 at 13:57

    Ortolani achieved celebrity status way back in the 1960’s by scoring controversial documentaries viz: ‘MONDO CANE’ – ‘ECCO’ -‘WOMEN OF THE WORLD’ & AFRICA ADDIO. They boasted a few cues that were very listenable, whilst the rest was boringly uninspired. One rather supported ROTA, RUSTICELLI, TROVAIOLI & NASCIMBENE whose talents totally eclipsed Ortolani’s. Even period dramas such as ‘BROTHER SUN-SISTER MOON’ & ‘CASANOVA and COMPANY failed to inspire him. One recalls his disasterous attempt to emulate ALEX NORTH’s sumptuous, exotically-orchestrated ‘CLEOPATRA’ by releasing an LP of highlights…except for the beautiful “CLEOPATRA’s PALACE MUSIC {omitted on NORTH’s LP} the arrangements & conducting were just mediocre. And then the genius ENNIO MORRICONE arrived – followed by NICOLA PIOVANNI, and Ortolani faded into obscurity.