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  • orient_expressComposed by Ennio Morricone
  • GDM 2051 / 2004 / 50:15

A six-part French tv series first broadcast in 1979, each episode of Orient Express focuses on a different tale of a journey on the legendary train; each one is set between the outbreak of the First World War and the outbreak of the Second.  Ennio Morricone provided the music.  Morricone’s score is everything you might imagine – at times romantic, at times suspenseful, always evocative.  The score is essentially built from two themes, as one may discern from the tracklisting – 18 of the 19 tracks are called either “Che Senso Ha” or “Orient Express”.  But that’s a little misleading – this isn’t one of those Morricone albums where the same piece of music is repeated over and over again.  He sends the first theme through many different variations, and some of the tracks labelled “Orient Express” seem to have no relationship with each other at all.

They’re both gorgeous themes.  “Che Senso Ha” is given a couple of vocal arrangements (sung by Maria Rigel Tonini); a few Dixieland-style arrangements (yes, really); but most Morricone enthusiasts will take most pleasure from the stunning arrangements for solo piano and the piece de resistance, the orchestral version which opens the album.  The other theme, “Orient Express”, is also stunning in its orchestral arrangement.  Some of the later pieces which share its name are actually ear-splitting pieces of suspense music, extraordinarily unsettling – and, as with most such Morricone, a hard slog indeed for the listener.  Finally, there’s “Le Train”, a beautiful theme (with a slight pop beat) given the unmistakable Edda dell’Orso treatment.  It’s not a classic piece of Morricone/dell’Orso, but it is of course worth hearing – many times!  This 2004 CD marked the first time anything apart from “Le Train” and an orchestral arrangement of the “Orient Express” theme had been released at all; and the prettiness of the melodic material makes it well worth seeking out.  *** 1/2

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