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Il Grande Silenzio
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • King / 35m

Generally considered to be amongst the finest Italian westerns, Sergio Corbucci’s Il Grande Silenzio is a rare western set in snow. Jean-Louis Trintignant stars as Silence, unable to speak after having his vocal chords ripped out by bandits, who joins together with a group of villagers fighting the corrupt authorities in the town of Snow Hill. The film was actually financed by Fox but Darryl Zanuck was so disgusted by the downbeat tone and in particular the ending that he refused to release it in America! It didn’t surface in the States until being released on home video in 2001 – with the option to watch with an alternative, happy ending which had been shot under Zanuck’s instruction (and against Corbucci’s wishes).

Ennio Morricone wasn’t bad at these westerns and Il Grande Silenzio is amongst his best work in the genre, even though actually it is somewhat atypical. There are none of the usual bells and whistles, none of the quirks which are in many ways his trademarks – it’s a serious, sometimes-gritty and “conventional” score for a dark drama.

Ennio Morricone

Having said that, the main theme “Restless” is quite a gentle, pastoral one heard in its main title variant with guitar and strings dominating the aural palette, vocals playing generally a supporting role. It’s built around a solid, memorable tune and Morricone does a lot with it in the score – sometimes using fragments of it for solo violin, sometimes for the orchestra, and in my favourite variant, a haunting vocal version in “Voci nel Deserto”.

There’s a love theme too, heard most fully in “Invito all’Amore” in the later stages of the album. Again there’s a haunting quality: it’s introduced by solo violin, sounding stripped-down and bare, with great sadness accompanying the romance – even when the strings swell somewhat, those conflicting feelings are still very much in evidence.

Elsewhere there is some strong action material – “Passaggi nel Tempo” and “Barbara e Tagliente” early on the album are both stirring pieces, but as the score progresses Morricone pushes a kind of “siege” feeling, with suspense enveloping the listener – it’s often quite subtle but never short of brilliant. For the stark finale, “L’Ultimo Gesto”, sounds flutter and echo before a devastating variation on that love theme appears.

While not as “showy” as most of his famous scores in this genre, Il Grande Silenzio is undoubtedly one of the greatest of Ennio Morricone’s contributions to the western genre. Dramatically riveting, it is one of those film music albums that tells the story so clearly, it doesn’t really matter whether you’ve seen the film or not – you know what’s happening. It’s not a particularly easy score to find on album, but if you’re a Morricone fan then find it you must.

Rating: ***** | |

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  1. Jon Malone (Reply) on Saturday 1 August, 2020 at 17:23

    Thanks for the review. I love this score. I agree, not typical Morricone ‘western’, but the whistles, bells and coyote howls would have been out of place for a western with a freezing, snowbound setting, such as this. What makes this such a great score is that it chills you to the bone, with sharp, stabbing, cold melodies and instrumentation, so perfect for the setting and bleak storyline. And what a superb love theme, one of Morricone’s greatest because it is underscored with such heartache. A masterwork from Morricone’s golden era (1968-71).

  2. dominique (Reply) on Saturday 1 August, 2020 at 18:39

    it’s one of morricone“s most tender and suffering works, stunningly beautiful.

  3. Mikel W (Reply) on Saturday 1 August, 2020 at 18:56

    A good music by the MORRICONE you know what I’m saying. All the way back I heard this when I was 6 years old and my brother was alive. He liked ROTA more but he too young to know. Still drinking the milk you know what I’m saying. I play this on my radio station. No listeners only me but you can listen on the radio if you find it. Even down in those caves in Mexico they still sing these songs. Chris DE BURGH always sings in his concerts around the world, on the sunny side. I dedicate my life to this album thank you for amazing music SOUTHALL this is one of your best. Please release album again so I can give copies to my friends.

  4. Rory (Reply) on Saturday 1 August, 2020 at 22:29

    I had no idea this movie or score existed until today. Sounds amazing. Definitely checking both of them out.

    There’s a lot of stuff I’d have never heard of were it not for your reviews. Thanks for doing what you do.