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Mosca Addio
  • Composed by Ennio Morricone
  • EMI / 39m

Mosca Addio is a biopic of Ida Nudel, a campaigner for Jewish rights in Soviet Russia who was exiled from her home in Moscow to a remote village in Siberia. She was finally granted her wish – to be allowed to leave for Israel – in 1987, just as Mauro Bolognini’s film was released. Bolognini was one of the most frequent directorial collaborators with the great Ennio Morricone – they did no fewer than 15 films together – and the composer produced some magnificent music for those films.

The score’s main theme is truly haunting, and multi-faceted: the opening cue begins with a simple zither melody which barely has a chance to play out before a tense keyboard figure (typical of Morricone’s work around this period) swirls around, leading into the main theme proper being unveiled – a sax solo gives it a sad, sombre vibe before it gradually transforms into a thing of lightness and beauty. It’s quite the emotional journey the composer takes you on in just five minutes.

Ennio Morricone

It’s a while before we hear anything resembling lightness again. A couple of tense dramatic cues (featuring some beautiful violin passages) lead up to the seismically suspenseful “Viaggio”, in which the composer actually samples the sounds of a train which he lays underneath some dissonant strings and desperate clutches of the main theme; as the train fades away, he adds a hint of Russian patriotism to the way he constructs the theme for the full orchestra, but somehow keeps it undoubtedly downbeat and sad.

“Ricorda di Mosca” is an interesting variant on the opening cue, with most of its elements intact but fascinatingly twisted into an even more hauntingly sad feeling thanks to some subtle alterations. After another take on the B-section of the theme in “La Casa” there is a brief action piece, “L’Arresto” and then a feeling of resignation is the dominant feature of a piece for strings, “In Un Inferno”.

After this, some hope emerges in “Un Addio Nel Cuore”, another variant on the main theme, this time with gentle pauses giving it a real elegance. “Lavori Forzatti” opens with a brief passage of fairly intense action before it settles into more martial-sounding “revolution” music in a style familiar from other social dramas Morricone scored (many, many times) earlier in his career. “Siberia” is an incredibly tense cue with strings swirling around to create a kind of psychological horror (it actually sounds like it would be at home in the composer’s score for The Thing). After this, “Partenza” is almost unbearably sad for most of its time before finally some glimmers of light appear near its conclusion. Morricone rounds things off with an astonishingly beautiful piece for solo piano, “Canzone Senza Parole” (which means “song without words”) – calm, gentle, really moving.

There was actually an extended CD version of the score issued by Saimel in 2007 (which I don’t have) but, unusually, the subsequent digital releases have stuck to the programme of the original 40-minute album. The one I have is its original CD release, which has fairly awful sound – I see the newer ones claim to be remastered but I can’t comment on whether they sound better or not. Regardless of the sound, the most important thing is that the music’s really strong. It doesn’t have the ravishing romantic beauty of the best of Morricone’s scores for Bolognini, but it’s a powerful work, appropriately sombre and respectful and in its own way really very beautiful all the same.

Rating: **** | |

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