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UNA STORIA ITALIANA
Low-key Morricone tv score boasts melancholic melodic delights
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Rai Trade; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
As if the seemingly endless stream of new projects isn't enough to keep the bank balance of a Morricone collector in check, there is also a perpetual stream of reissues and releases of older scores. While some of these try the patience of even a die-hard Morricone fan like myself (buying a release of an older score because it has one or two new tracks, which turn out to be near-exact repeats of ones which were already there, has burned me one or two times too many now), it is intriguing when something is released on CD for the first time; this new 2006 album for Una Storia Italiana is actually the debut release of a 1992 Italian tv movie. I'm afraid I have no idea what it's about, but there's a picture of some rowers on the front and a picture of some choppy water on the back cover - so draw your own conclusions! (Actually, a snippet of further information is available from Intrada's Doug Fake, who reports that it's about the Olympic winning Abbagnale brothers - I'm afraid that doesn't help me any further.)
As is sometimes the case with Morricone albums, this one features several tracks which seem to be virtually identical to each other - there are actually only six unique track titles, and all the repeats are of the same length. The album lasts for almost 55 minutes, but adding up those uniquely-named tracks only gives a total time of just under 25 minutes - I'm not really sure what the point of all the repeats is, but there must be one somewhere which eludes me! They're not all straight repeats.
There are strong hints of the melodic parts of Once Upon a Time in America here - the opening of the titular opening cue certainly brings to mind that score's main theme, though it develops into something more melancholy. There's more than a hint of OUATIA's outstanding "Poverty" theme in the string-laden "Due Fratelli", which again is gorgeous. Sandwiched in between those is the slightly cheesy "Speranza", again a lovely melody, though the mild pop accompaniment seems a bit dated. Out of nowhere, next comes "Vittoria", with full chanting choir à la The Mission - beautiful stuff. The thing with Morricone albums, particularly those for these tv movies, is that no matter how much gorgeous melodic material is crammed towards the start of the album, you can be almost certain that before long some suspense music will come along. This duly arrives in "Dramma Interiore", an almost terrifyingly bleak piece of music, and virtually interminable to listen to. I'm sure somebody somewhere must like listening to music like this, but that person is probably doing life for multiple homicide. Even more interminable is "Soglia del Dolore" which follows, a piece of twisted dissonance which has a similar effect to somebody scratching his nails on a chalkboard.
That's the core of the material - from what I can tell, it's all repeated later on, sometimes more than once. There are admittedly some changes here and there - the choir is dropped in favour of strings in the second "Vittoria", for instance, and there's an electric guitar carrying the melody in the third (!) "Speranza" - but nothing particularly significant otherwise. Fortunately, it's a great core of material, with the four melodic pieces which open the album verging on vintage Morricone. Oddly, and unfortunately, the album ends with a repeat of the near-unlistenable "Dramma Interiore", but otherwise this is brilliant stuff and highly recommended.