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KAROL, UN PAPA RIMASTO UOMO
Spiritual, sometimes liturgical, tv music from Morricone
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 RTI; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
In 2005, Ennio Morricone scored an Italian tv movie called Karol, Un Uomo Diventato Papa, a film about the life of Pope John Paul II up until the moment he actually became Pope. It was made before his death, but not aired until shortly afterwards. Now the same production team has filmed the second half of his life, in Karol, Un Papa Rimasto Uomo, also scored (of course) by Morricone.
The first score featured some striking choral music, along with some tense atmospheres for Karol Wojita's more intense moments in his life before assuming the papacy. Probably by necessity - and maybe also because unlike the first one, this was scored after his death - this time around the music is generally much more solemn and less joyful, though is not exclusively so. The disc opens with "Karol e l'Amore", a reprise of the beautiful viola theme from the first one; it's not undergone many changes, and remains as attractive as ever. The main new theme, "Un Papa Rimasto Uomo", debuts in the second piece, and is fairly similar in feel, though introduces an idea which is repeated throughout the new score, a duet between violin and viola which is haunting, to say the least.
There is much choral music here; the first example is the liturgical "Vieni Santo Spirito", in which the solemn mood is perfectly captured. However, this is in stark contast to the suddenly-joyful "Canto di Gioia" which follows, though that piece is extremely brief and the happier tone does not last long. The lengthy "Tre Piccoli Frammenti" is perhaps a heartfelt tribute from the composer to the late spiritual leader, scored for string trio (and occasionally quartet), a beautifully understated piece.
I suppose it's fairly obvious even to those less-than-fluent in Italian that a piece called "Tortuoso" isn't going to be full of the joys of spring, and so it proves, with the track being the most difficult on the album so far. It's dissonant, though not unlistenably so. The following "Nel Cosmo" certainly hints that it will be going along similar lines, but from nowhere, a noble and rich trumpet solo appears which is as warm as they come. "Avvenne a Piazza San Pietro" is incredibly striking - similar to a piece in the previous score, it sees a remarkable combination of organ, shrieking choir and blaring brass, almost like the extraordinary "The Mountain" music from Morricone's Secret of the Sahara, one of the most incredible things he's ever written. Unfortunately, instead of ten minutes like "The Mountain", this one's over in 57 seconds!
"Le Voci della Storia" is a piece which allows the choir to go solo, showing off the composer's rich choral writing once again - though as with elsewhere in the score, perhaps the music is just too directly liturgical to appeal to everyone. "Tre Brevi Frammenti per Organo" reprises the material from "Tre Piccoli Frammenti", this time translating it onto a solo organ. "In Politica" is an uplifting piece for orchestra and (for once wordless) choir, one of the most directly attractive pieces on the album. The only particularly uptempo piece on the album is "Viaggiatore", with choppy strings joined by percussion, and mysteriously some whispering voices in the background that sound like they come from a Turkish bazaar. The disc ends with the piece which opened the previous score, "Habernus Papam Guivanni Paolo II", a truly gorgeous theme for orchestra and choir.
Karol, un Papa Rimasto Uomo
is a fine score from Morricone - perhaps not quite so splendid as his
music for its predecessor, and at 67 minutes the album is certainly
longer than it needs to be - but it reinforces once again what a major
player Morricone is in the film music world, even though sadly most
younger fans have probably never even heard of him, since his American
output dried up completely a few years ago.