For a long time, Ennio Morricone (1928-2020) kept the two main fields of his compositional activity neatly separated. First, there was film music: this was undoubtedly the best known and also the most abundant of the two. His artistic partnerships with directors such as Sergio Leone, Giuseppe Tornatore, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Giuliano Montaldo, Elio Petri, and Gillo Pontecorvo marked the history of film music. However, the directors with whom he cooperated, also on the international stage, are very numerous, including Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino. His film music comprises nearly 500 scores: a record quantity, reached over the course of more than five decades, and crowned by three Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, five BAFTAs, a Grammy and countless other awards.
The other category is his works for the concert hall: symphonic-choral scores, chamber music, and works for solo instruments. They mirror his education and studies under the guidance of the absolute master Goffredo Petrassi, as well as his knowledge of contrapuntal technique, avant-garde vocation, and experience as a performer in the Improvisation Ensemble “Nuova Consonanza”. This category includes about 130 works: even though these cannot compare with the exceptional quantity of his film music, they still represent a notable portion of his compositional activity. In order to define this output, Morricone reassumed and updated a concept once created by Richard Wagner, and adopted the expression of “absolute music”.
For the Roman composer, reflection on the independence of music from other factors becomes central. Precisely due to his persistent cinematographic activity, the composer was aware that the diverse destinations of his work (cinema or concert hall) conditioned his style and compositional modes. Film music was “applied music”, created in order to support a narrative made of moving images. But this is not all. Composing for the cinema also means adapting one’s writing to specific times and manners. A movie needs “themes”, i.e. comparatively short musical motifs, capable of integrating themselves with the meaning and affective climate of a particular scene, and even intuitively communicating to the spectator the deep meaning of the movie itself. Morricone was perfectly aware that music, when bound to images, decisively conditions the perception of a movie. He also knew that much depends on how the director will use that music. Concert music, instead, is “absolute music”, entirely free from any conditioning, autonomous in its forms and styles. Indeed, it is open both to a dialogue with the “cultivated” tradition, and to the most daring experimentations. This freedom is hardly tolerated by the dynamics of cinema.
Morricone pursued these two kinds of aesthetics for a long time. At first, he kept them on different tracks, but later he let them flow and merge into one another, trying absolutely to nullify their differences. One needs only to listen to the complexity marking some of the works of his last period, such as Baarìa, La sconosciuta (The Unknown Woman), and La migliore offerta (The Best Offer – Deception). On the other hand, it comes as no surprise that a sacred work, and one woven together with contrapuntal processes, such as the Missa Papae Francisci, embodies a considerable part of the music written for the film The Mission.
The film themes in which it is easy to appreciate a “classical” substance are very numerous. The contrapuntal discipline is almost omnipresent, and the trained ear can recognize his homage to masters of the past. Not infrequently, a taste for experimental solutions surfaces.
The project Absolutely…Ennio Morricone, of which this CD constitutes the first volume, has precisely this aim: to draw an all-round portrait of a genius composer, who, with his music and his very recognizable style, was able to reach a very wide audience, without ever renouncing a nobility of writing whose roots dig deeply into the classical tradition.
There are scores conceived for the cinema; some are presented in their original version, others in chamber versions rigorously realized by the composer, but there are also pages of “absolute music”. These two styles follow each other in such a way that each dimension merges with the other with spontaneity and fluidity. Then, even an extremely famous theme such as “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission, here offered in a transcription for flute, cello, and piano trio , can surprisingly reveal the transparency of the voices’ interweaving.
However, the way in which Morricone decides to assemble his creations is also what confers them to a precise formal setup. This happens, for instance, with the Suite Tornatore, which collects themes from La leggenda del pianista sull’oceano (The Legend of 1900), Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso), and Malèna and Una pura formalità (A Pure Formality), which are entrusted to an essential dialogue between cello and piano.
In the same fashion, Morricone builds a piano suite with the title 4 Canzoni, “pulling out” two themes from scores which are not among his most well-known (such as White Dog and Stark System), together with pieces excerpted from successful films (such as Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto [Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion] and Metti, una sera a cena [Love Circle]). This formula will recur again on other occasions in his vast catalogue.
Differently from Love affair, which appears in the original score for the eponymous film produced and interpreted by Warren Beatty in the form presented here, the solo piano version of “Deborah’s Theme”, from C’era una volta in America (Once Upon a Time in America), was realized at a later moment. It is interesting to observe that, deprived of the colours of its orchestration, Morricone’s pianistic writing highlights the fragmentary structure of this famous theme. These are like flashes of memory which coalesce, restoring the emotions of a movie which is built precisely on the thread of memory. A discussion of its own is warranted for Addio a Pier Paolo Pasolini, a piece written in 1975 for Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom), Pasolini’s last movie. The director expressly requested that Morricone compose a dodecaphonic piece. It would be inserted at a particularly agonizing moment in the movie: a pianist, aware of the atrocities which the protagonists perpetrate on both boys and girls, plays the piano, and, at the end, takes her life by jumping from a window. Morricone dedicated this score to the director, after his tragic death shortly later. Due to its characteristics, this is one of those pieces whose cinematographic origins are practically irrelevant. It can be listened to in the same fashion as one hears Klavierstück by Arnold Schoenberg.
Invenzione, Canone e Ricercare is a pianist triptych, belonging in the first stage of Morricone’s compositional activity, long before his film compositions . The score’s date is 1956, but the Ricercare was written back in 1952. In this case there is no ambiguity: they are three short pages of absolute music. Even though these are youthful works, they display, from their very titles, some references to precise forms of the early tradition and a clear predisposition for contrapuntal processes. The influences of composers such as Frescobaldi, Bach, and the early Petrassi emerge and would always constitute a reference point for Morricone.
A more distinctly melodic character returns in the pieces for flute and piano. Per le antiche scale has an intimate tone which perfectly suits the atmospheres of Mauro Bolognini’s movie. On the other hand, La corta notte delle bambole di vetro is a melodic oasis, even though it is not without some disquietude. It belongs in one of the most experimental film scores by Morricone.
Morricone’s propensity toward the avantgarde is freely manifested in Proibito, a piece from 1972, dedicated “to the friends of the Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza”. It was originally conceived for a trumpet, whose sound is superimposed on itself in a sixteen-track tape (in the case of a studio recording), or otherwise for eight amplified trumpets (in the case of a live performance in a concert hall). Rather than a score, Proibito is an improvisation scheme. It is an exceptional documentation of how the preparation of the Ensemble’s performances could take place. The Ensemble, founded in 1958 by Franco Evangelisti, was the first European ensemble constituted by composers dedicated to non-jazz improvisation.
It was Morricone himself who asked Luca Pincini, one of his longtime collaborators (as were Gilda Buttà and Paolo Zampini) to realise a version for cello and pre-recorded tracks. The created piece thus preserves, unaltered, the research and exploration of the sonorous possibilities which were considered experimental in the Seventies and are now fully acquired. Its most interesting aspect lies precisely in the observation that a scheme originally conceived for a wind instrument can be developed by an instrument with a completely different nature, such as the cello. Pincini literally wraps this instrument in an undreamed-of timbral cloud, with percussive effects, noises, and “industrial” sounds.
Giovanni D’Alò © 2022
Translation by Chiara Bertoglio and Noelle M. Heber
Gilda Buttà: Gilda Buttà began her studies at the age of six with his father (a violinist), graduating with the highest honors at the Conservatory of Milan, and at the age of sixteen, under the leadership of Carlo Vidusso.
In the same years she made her debut as soloist with the Orchestra of the RAI in Milan, winning shortly thereafter national and international competitions, including the "Premio Liszt" in Livorno.
Then follows the teachings of Lucia Passaglia, Guido Agosti and Rodolfo Caporali.
The concert career has taken her to play for the most important institutions, both as a soloist and in chamber ensembles throughout Europe, USA, South America, Japan, Korea, China, Russia and Israel.
Dedicated to the most diverse styles, from contemporary music through experimentation and contamination, has developed a vast repertoire.
Her vast repertoire for piano and orchestra, ranging from Mozart to Beethoven, Brahms, Gershwin, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, up to Nyman, performed for the IUC in Rome, conducted by the composer himself.
With cellist Luca Pincini, her husband in life, is a special deal of understanding, based on the much curiosity as the rigor of musical choices, which has led them to perform the whole of the works of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, pages of all the major authors of the classical repertoire, often devoted to compositions by musicians of today, with excellent collaborations.
Gilda Buttà for over twenty five years collaborated with M° Ennio Morricone recording piano in most of his films scores, including: The Legend of the pianist on the Ocean, Canon reverse, Love Affair, The Untouchables, Frantic, Casualties of War, The Good Pope, Bugsy and many others. This is why she is worldwide known as "the pianist of Morricone".
She appeared in several CD and DVD (“I Ennio Morricone", "Film Music", "Piano Solo", "Arena Concerto", "Yo Yo Ma Plays Morricone", "Ennio Morricone-Dulce Pontes "," Live in Japan "," Concert for Peace "," Live in Monaco ") and the various productions, concerts of Radio City Music Hall and Palazzo UN in New York, Herodes Atticus in Athens, Royal Albert Hall in London, Tokyo International Music Forum, Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Arena di Verona, the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, National Theatre of Rio De Janeiro, Piazza San Marco in Venezia, Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Ljubljana Festival, Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
She is also assiduous interpreter of the absolute music of Ennio Morricone who dedicated her "Catalogue" (Suvini Zerboni 2000).
Always has been active as a soloist with other musicians dedicated to Films and Theatre including Luis Bacalov, Nicola Piovani, Franco Piersanti, Paul Buonvino, Lele Marchitelli, Marco Betta, Paolo Silvestri, Daniele Luppi and Gianni Ferrio. Other excellent collaborations such as Mina and Vasco Rossi.
She has recorded for BMG, CAM, SONY, MEG ITALY, PRIMROSE MUSIC LONDON, WARNER, VIRGIN, VICTOR, RCA, EMI ,LIMEN.
For "Weights & Measures", with Luca Pincini, he recorded "Two Skies", with music by Rachmaninov, Gershwin, and Ferrio "Clataja" special guest Roberto Gatto and Luca Bulgarelli.
For the U07 Records has recorded, in duo with Luca Pincini, "Composers", "Absolutely Ennio Morricone" and "Playing George Gershwin”.
She was honored with several awards, including the "Taormina for the Arts.”
After being a professor of piano at the conservatories of Florence and Pescara, now teaches at the Conservatory “Licinio Refice “ in Frosinone.
Dopo l'approccio alla musica con il padre, ha studiato con Rocco Filippini, Franco Maggio Ormezowsky e Misha Maisky. Laureato con lode, si è perfezionato nelle Accademie Santa Cecilia di Roma e Chigiana di Siena. È stato Primo Violoncello nelle maggiori orchestre italiane, come il Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, il Maggio Musicale di Firenze, il Teatro dell'Opera di Roma,la Sinfonica Nazionale Rai. Dedicato agli stili, alle sperimentazioni e alle contaminazioni più disparate, si è esibito in tutto il mondo. Egli stesso è autore di composizioni originali. Noto il sodalizio con la pianista Gilda Buttà, con cui si esibisce nel repertorio più sconfinato.
Per decenni ha affiancato come solista Ennio Morricone, per la musica assoluta, per il Cinema ("Il fantasma dell'Opera", "Il Papa Buono", "Canone Inverso", "Perlasca", "Vatel", "La Sconosciuta", "La Migliore Offerta" ...) e per concerti in tutto il mondo(Radio City Music Hall e ONU di New York, Herode Atticus di Atene, Royal Albert Hall di Londra, Tokyo International Music Forum, Palazzo del Cremlino di Mosca, Arena di Verona, Auditorium Parco della Musica di Roma, Teatro Nazionale di Rio De Janeiro, Piazza San Marco a Venezia, Piazza del Duomo a Milano, Festival di Lubiana...). Lo stesso Ennio Morricone gli ha dedicato “Monodia per violoncello solo”. Insegna violoncello al Conservatorio Statale di Musica “L.Refice” di Frosinone.
Nato a Pistoia, ha compiuto gli studi di flauto traverso a Firenze sotto la guida di Mario Gordigiani e Roberto Fabbriciani. Da oltre 40 anni svolge attività concertistica sia come solista che come componente di importanti orchestre ed ensemble: “Sinfonica della RAI” di Roma, “Roma Sinfonietta”, “Roma Group”, “Solisti dell'Accademia Filarmonica Romana” e “Orchestra Nazionale Santa Cecilia”.
Dal 1985 è stato uno degli interpreti preferiti del M° Ennio Morricone, eseguendo in concerto i suoi film e musica da camera. Sempre con il Maestro romano ha realizzato numerosi CD e DVD ed eseguito concerti in Austria, Francia, Belgio, Inghilterra, Germania, Norvegia, Repubblica Cèka, Polonia, Israele, Stati Uniti, Spagna, Giappone, Corea del Sud, Siria, Portogallo , Russia, Lituania, Georgia, Brasile, Cile e Messico. Ha inciso per Edi-Pan, Rai Uno, Mediaset e Tele Montecarlo. Dal 1980 è stato docente di flauto traverso nei seguenti Conservatori Statali: F. Cilea di Reggio Calabria, L. Refice di Frosinone e L. Cherubini di Firenze, Istituto di Alta Formazione di cui è stato Direttore dal 2015 al 2021.
Ennio Morricone: (b Rome, 10 Nov 1928). Italian composer. A favourite pupil of Petrassi, he also deputized secretly for his trumpeter father in a light music orchestra. He thus developed two distinct sides to his musical personality: one of these led him to embrace serialism (e.g. in Distanze and Musica per 11 violini, 1958) and the experimental work of the improvisation group Nuova Consonanza (from 1965); the other gained him a leading role, principally as an arranger, in all types of mass-media popular music, including songs for radio, radio and television plays, and the first successful television variety shows. In the early days of the record industry his innovative contribution played a decisive part in the success of the first Italian singer-songwriters (‘cantautori’), including Gianni Morandi and Gino Paoli.
After many minor cinematic collaborations, Morricone achieved wider recognition with Sergio Leone’s series of four Westerns, beginning with Per un pugno di dollari (1964). There followed important collaborations with directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci (from 1964), Pier Paolo Pasolini (from 1966) and Elio Petri (from 1968), and particularly successful films with Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Allonsanfàn, 1974; Il prato, 1979), Valerio Zurlini (Il deserto dei tartari, 1976), Roland Joffe (The Mission, 1986) and Brian De Palma (Casualties of War, 1989). Despite inevitable self-repetitions over a total of more than 400 film scores, his work provides many examples of a highly original fusion of classical and popular idioms: this is noticeable already, albeit in somewhat crude form, in Leone’s series of Westerns, where the music for the opening titles juxtaposes three distinct types of music: a synthetic folk idiom, using the jew’s harp, acoustic guitar and harmonica to accompany human whistling; a contemporary, urban rock sound, featuring the electric guitar; and an unabashedly sentimental choral-orchestral style. With Giù la testa (1971) Morricone entered an experimental phase in which he developed a technique based on melodic, rhythmic or harmonic ‘modules’ (usually of 4, 8 or 16 beats in length), each differently characterized and often featuring a particular instrument. These are juxtaposed and combined to create very different stylistic atmospheres. The most impressive application of the modular technique is found in The Mission, where the single modules, more extended and clearly defined than before, interact dialectically, assuming very clear symbolic functions.
Morricone’s non-film works form a large and increasingly widely performed part of his output. Many of them use his technique of ‘micro-cells’, a pseudo-serial approach often incorporating modal and tonal allusions, which, with its extreme reduction of compositional materials, has much in common with his film-music techniques. His most fruitful season of concert-music composition began with the Second Concerto for flute, cello and orchestra (1985, from which the Cadenza for flute and tape of 1988 is derived) and continued with Riflessi (1989–90), three pieces for cello which represent perhaps the highpoint of his chamber music output, attaining a high degree of lyrical tension.
Morricone is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a Commendatore dell’Ordine ‘Al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’. Among other honours, he has received four Academy Award nominations, a Grammy and a Leone d’oro. In 2000 he was awarded the Laurea Honoris Causa by the University of Cagliari. Between 1991 and 1996 he taught film music (sharing a post with Sergio Miceli) at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena.