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Well-done but familiar drama score from Morricone
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Rai Trade; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
It never ceases to amaze me that a film composer as innovative, as bold, as blessed with the most sublime talent as Ennio Morricone spends the majority of his time, towards the end of his career, working on Italian tv movies, many of which are barely seen even in Italy, let alone anywhere else. Clearly he never enjoyed working in America, but it seems such a pity that a man who stands so far ahead of virtually any of his peers they would need to look through the Hubble telescope to see him, writes music for projects that virtually nobody will ever see.
Having such a big name does of course mean that the majority of his new scores are released on CD for us to enjoy the world over, and the latest release is La Provinciale on the Rai Trade label, which does so many of these tv movie score albums. My research has garnered no information at all about the film, but from the photos in the booklet it appears to be set in the 1940s or 50s and feature a comely young woman along with several serious-looking men who wear ties. (Lord, I could win a Pullitzer Prize for writing like this.)
After a brief opening, "La Spiaggia", which hints at a nice theme but never quite reveals it, the titular second track really gets things going, and probably remains the standout piece - a classically elegant theme with floating string phrases which are typical Morricone, it's another of those pieces which - were they written by anyone else - the whole world (well, the world of film music collectors) would jump up and down about, but since it's by Morricone, it blends in with the other 76 billion amazing themes he's done and so won't get the attention it really deserves.
"Mare" is a great piece, a piano solo constantly rolling up and down like the waves as the tide comes in, and a beautiful string theme washing over the top. After such a promising start to the album, it is a little disappointing that it then changes tack and the emphasis is placed firmly on suspense. Morricone is a master of that, of course, but there is a real sense of having heard some of this before - the technique is so familiar (and the reason Morricone returns to it time and again is clearly because it's so effective) that it takes something really special (like the recent La Sconosciuta) to excite the veteran Morricone collector quite the way these things must have done when they first started appearing many years ago (while I was still a sparkle in my parents' eyes).
When Morricone does vary things a bit (the clarinet in "Delitto e Rimosi" playing over the wash of strings and music box-like chime accompaniment) the results can be captivating, but this is one of those scores from the composer which suffers purely as a result of comparison with the composer's great work. Every year for far longer than I've been alive, Morricone has tended to produce one or two pure stunners which are so good, they can make even very fine music sound mundane when placed around them, and La Provinciale falls into that category. It's soothing music, it's beautifully put together, it features a wonderful theme - but the lack of that slight touch of genius means that for all its great qualities, it's not likely to get too much time in the stereo when there is so very much outstanding material standing around it in the Morricone portion of the CD cabinet.