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ERE 0162902

Artwork copyright (c) 2005 RTI.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Marvelous religious score from the Maestro


Ennio Morricone's scores for religious-themed films have always been strong.  Indeed, The Mission is one of the finest film scores ever written.  His rejected score from What Dreams May Come is majestic and magnificent; and he has scored several Italian tv movies with religious themes in recent years, such as Il Papa Buono and Padre Pio.  His latest is 2005's Karol, Un Uomo Diventato Papa, a film about the life of Pope John Paul II, covering his childhood to the moment he became leader of the Catholic church.  It was filmed before his death and aired shortly thereafter, to much acclaim in Italy.

Morricone has shown time and again that he is able to successfully get to the heart of films like this and evoke exactly the right kind of spiritual note.  This score closely resembles Padre Pio in terms of its structure at least, though it doesn't actually share any music directly.  It opens and closes, like that score, with a striking choral piece, though this time Morricone's music is more broadly spiritual, less directly liturgical.  More than any other film composer past or present, Morricone's choral music is exceptional.  For him the choir isn't just something to go "ooh" or "aah" in unison with the strings, he writes proper choral music.  While non-Latin scholars amongst you (forgive me for making the assumption that less than 100% of my readership is fluent in the ancient tongue) won't know what the choir is singing, chances are the music will still strike something in your heart - even if you are not practicing Christians.

In between the choral music which bookends the album come some typically strong Morricone themes.  "Contro" introduces a powerful theme, quite brassy and strident, but still very much in keeping with the dignified tone.  "Karol e la sofferenza" is a truly beautiful piece of music, simply bursting with emotion, perfectly conveying tragedy and suffering.  "Karol e l'amore" is the inevitable lilting theme played by solo viola (Morricone's ubiquitous collaborator Fausto Anzelmo).  I'm really not sure why Morricone is so taken by the sound of the viola and favours it for solos so much more than the violin, but its slightly harsher, less familiar sound works perfectly for the composer's typically heartmelting melodies.

As with Padre Pio, after a bunch of extremely attractive, melodious material, the score's middle section is rather different.  The shift begins with "Karol e gli invasori", an almost militaristic piece which introduces darker tones to the score.  "Wyszynski: il Cardinale" takes things further, being a typical piece of Morricone suspense music, and sadly one of a few pieces from the middle of the album which make it a weaker listen.  I know it's an important part of the score as a whole and people would argue that the life of the man the film is about couldn't be considered without also considering some pain and suffering, but this album would have benefited from a few tracks being pruned.  Fortunately, Morricone does still intersperse the suspense with the occasional knockout melody ("Maria e Adam" reminds me a bit of the composer's classic Questa Specie d'Amore, in a slightly softer hue).

As usual, Morricone demonstrates his ability to use an orchestra to its fullest potential, and also his ability to do the unexpected, with the clarinet solo in the lengthy "Karol e il dolore" being a particular delight.  The score's first real "action music" comes with the dense, dark "Polonia in fiamme", a piece which again is full of typical Morricone tension.  "KGB" is an almost comical piece and arguably the score's one real misfire, sounding somewhat out of place in this score and a little bit more like it should have been underscoring Al Capone in The Untouchables.  The score gets straight back on form though, and indeed makes a welcome return to the more melodious sounds of its opening tracks, with the outstanding "Da una radio lontana", featuring a gorgeous piano solo.  "Karol e gli operai" is simply stunning, with a church organ added to the orchestra to create a piece of enormous power; it is vaguely reminiscent of some of Alex North's music from The Shoes of the Fisherman, another film about a Pope - though of course a rather different one!  Regardless, this is a piece of music demonstrating a master composer at the very peak of his powers.

A slightly curious feature of the score is that tracks which have the same name as each other are actually nothing alike, and so it is that the final cue, "Wyszynski: il Cardinale (reprise)" bears absolutely no resemblance whatseover to the track called "Wyszynski: il Cardinale"; instead, it is a reprise of the opening choral piece, but this time with the orchestra absent.  It's a powerful and moving way to end what is an excellent score.  There are one or two tracks which seem slightly redundant which prevent the album as a whole from being considered a Morricone classic, but in truth it isn't that far off it and it's easily one of the most impressive of the year so far.  This one comes highly recommended.


  1. Habernus Papam Giovanni Paolo II (3:43)
  2. Contro (3:17)
  3. Karol e la sofferenza (4:19)
  4. Cracovia (2:19)
  5. Karol e l'amore (2:12)
  6. Karol e gli invasori (5:41)
  7. Wyszynski: il Cardinale (2:26)
  8. Maria e Adam (2:19)
  9. Karol e il dolore (6:17)
  10. Polonia in fiamme (2:54)
  11. Kordek (4:39)
  12. KGB (3:38)
  13. Da una radio lontana (3:04)
  14. Karol e l'amore (reprise) (2:11)
  15. Karol e gli invasori (1:08)
  16. Sospeso in attesa (2:04)
  17. L'illusione della liberta (1:03)
  18. Karol e gli operai (2:14)
  19. Wyszynski: il Cardinale (reprise) (2:49)