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PANE E LIBERTA
Morricone charts a familiar course for this political biopic, but it's such a pleasure to hear him do his thing
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Rai Trade; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
The 80-year-old Ennio Morricone has unsurprisingly slowed down considerably over the last couple of years; with many hundreds of scores written in his glittering career, it's a wonder that he still finds the energy to write more music - and a bigger wonder still that it is still as high-quality as ever. While there is now a consistency of sound between projects which didn't exist when he was a younger man, there is also a consistency of quality, and there are few composers who can make me so excited when I see there is a new release on the way.
Pane e Liberta is the story of Giuseppe di Vittorio, an Italian trade unionist who went on to become one of the foremost opponents of the fascist movement which grew after the First World War (in which he faught). The biopic is directed by Alberto Negrin, who has worked with Morricone many times before; their collaboration produced the score which is perhaps Morricone's least-known masterpiece, The Secret of the Sahara. Pane e Liberta is obviously nothing like that extraordinary work - that consistency of sound I mentioned earlier involves smooth, melody-based composition, certainly not the kind of jagged, complex material of the earlier score - but it's a work of quality nevertheless.
The score's main theme is the outstanding "Quella Estate", gently martial but nobly reverential, a description that could also apply to the composer's classic theme from Novecento, which it inescapably resembles. When you've written 500 film scores, it becomes almost inevitable that whatever you go on to write is going to resemble something you've done before, and there are enough differences between the pieces to enable this new one to join the pantheon of great Morricone tunes.
There are other themes here too - none quite so memorable, but all of high quality. "Un Giusto" is an inspirational piece, again with that reverential air, this time perhaps even more overtly so. The lightness of "Fisarmonica" with its accordion solo is a nice interlude, before the score takes a decidedly darker tone in the militaristic "Tradito", jabbing strings and piercing flutes creating the kind of uncomfortable atmosphere Morricone has perfected over the years for such scenes. Later, the accordion returns in the dreamy "Noi Due".
"Le Ragioni del Silenzio" features a device Morricone has used numerous times in the past - brief pauses in between sweeping string statements. It's quite unusual in film music - it can't help but draw attention to the score, which few directors are brave enough to accept these days - but very effective at adding a degree of tension. Speaking of tension, it abounds in "Protesta", essentially a little repeating figure for percussion, plucked strings and horn, with a somewhat unpleasant synth backdrop. "In Piazza" is more satisfying, featuring those uniquely Morriconean string runs and gradually shifting from being the very height of musical suspense to something which is somehow almost uplifting.
Pane e Liberta features music which is somewhat familiar, but it would be hard to criticise a man of Morricone's age and experience for that. The fact remains that you will find few finer examples of film music in 2008, and Morricone continues to impress.