- Composed by Ennio Morricone
- WMI Italy / 2013 / 54:17
The Best Offer – aka La Migliore Offerta – is a rare venture into English-language filmmaking by Giuseppe Tornatore, whose Cinema Paradiso is considered a classic around the world but whose films since then have met with more limited success. Geoffrey Rush plays an art auctioneer drawn to a woman (Syliva Hoeks) looking to sell her collection, with supporting turns from Jim Sturgess and Donald Sutherland. Director Tornatore has built up quite a collaboration with composer Ennio Morricone – the composer evidently loves working with the director and has produced some of his most striking work of the last 25 years for the director.
The album begins with “La Migliore Offerta”, Morricone’s latest variation on the “Deborah’s Theme” formula from Once Upon a Time in America – it’s a new melody, but you know where the building blocks came from. It’s very pretty but far more striking is the second piece, the extraordinary “Volti e fantasmi”, with fairly downbeat orchestra and electric bass accompanying some remarkable vocal work by, amongst others, Edda dell’Orso, a Morricone stalwart since he first worked with her in 1964 and now in her late seventies. A quintet of female voices move playfully around each other to produce a kind of captivating, hypnotic effect on the listener which lasts long in the memory – it’s a wonderful eight-minute piece which shows Morricone can still be truly creative even now he’s well into his eighties.
“Un violino” showcases – guess what – a violin – in fact a pair of them, playing a lovely duet inspired by gypsy music, another dazzling piece. The tone darkens considerably in “Nevrosi fobica”, a tense and unsettling piece which explores the lower reaches of the orchestra and sees Morricone add a vague hint of a baroque nature through the use of the harpsichord. In fact this darker style is more typical of the score as a whole than the dazzling opening trio of tracks, but it remains compelling music throughout. The brief “Sguardi furtivi” showcases something I think is new for Morricone, though I stand to be corrected – a glass harmonica, adding another feather to his suspense bow (it’s very effective at creating an otherworldly, mysterious sound).
“Cavea” is a fine piece, strings slowly becoming more romantic, almost like an icy exterior is gradually melting. “Cercala e non trovaria” is less interesting, more typical brooding suspense material that is effective enough, but of a style which has been heard on a number of previous occasions (and indeed the way he uses strings in the piece offers just a hint – an entirely unintentional one, I’m sure – of Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho). “Alta villa” is a return of far more striking music, this time the glass harmonica carrying a melody over a series of orchestral crashes before an exquisite cello solo closes the piece. In “Perduta”, the swirling strings return, a violin solo darting in and out on top.
“Un cancello” is an explosive piece, the string section being sent through the wringer to provide some chilling moments before another violin duet plays on top of the darkness. In “Il vuote dentro”, there is considerable suggestion of danger, again the glass harmonica playing a leading role, doubling up the violins. “Le vuote stanze” is another of those hypnotic pieces, repeated phrases heard from the cellos over a pedal note from the basses, the distinguishing point being the striking violin solo which carries the second half of the piece. “A quattro voci” reminds me of some of the striking vocal work from Vatel and is amongst the album’s highlights. The hint of Herrmann returns in “Inspiegabile”, but “Pareti bianche” is pure Morricone, the slight edge to the string harmonies an unmistakable trademark of the composer.
“Ritratti d’autore” is a colourful piece for string quartet, highly expressive and beautiful. “Semza voce” is in some ways the album’s most exquisite piece, the string quartet remaining in place providing an eloquent reading of wonderful music. Following is a beautiful, pared-down version of “La migliore offerta”, then the album concludes with a reprise of “Volte e fantasmi”, a slightly briefer version of the theme, this time the glass harmonica playing a significant role alongside the beautiful voices. The Best Offer is a very strong album – Morricone spent a considerable amount of time working on the score, and it shows. It’s impressive that in his twilight years the composer has produced such a striking work and he is not resting on his laurels and just writing the “easier” romantic music – this is a continually arresting score, one which casts quite a spell on the listener. It simply brims with class, the 84-year-old Morricone writing music of considerable quality. So far the album has only been released as a download, and only in Italy, but presumably an international release will follow when the film is released in more territories. It’s a must-have.
Rating: **** 1/2