Ennio Morricone Concert Review: Sunday, 5th March, 2017, Hallenstadion Zürich
60 Years of Music Tour
Author Nualan O’Brien
Even if the multi-award winning 88-year old Italian composer walks at a slightly slower pace, Morricone continues to create music that affects us deeply. He is best-known for the film scores of the Mission, the Good the Bad and the Ugly, and most recently, the Hateful Eight. He has been dubbed: “the Mozart of the film-music industry.” In 2006, he was awarded an honorary Oscar for his “multifaceted contribution to film music.”
Morricone’s 2014 concert in Zurich had a dramatic ending
“As he concluded the last set to a standing ovation, Morricone stumbled from his podium on his way to exit the stage. Four colleagues rushed to help him. He rose, not quickly but carefully (…) A few minutes later he came back to conduct an encore of “Ecstasy of Gold” from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly – also met with a standing ovation. The final piece was from the Mission – another standing ovation. “Way to go, Mr Morricone,” I thought. It’s not how often we fall, but how often we pick ourselves up that matters.”
And pick himself up he did – not just physically. Since then, after six Oscar nominations for “Best Original Film Score”, in 2016, he finally won his first Oscar for “the Hateful Eight”.
After a concert I usually write the review the following day. But with Morricone, I could not. There was a question swirling around in my head that I could not answer. “What is it about his music that creates this powerful connection with the listener?” For several days, I listened to his music, and even compared it to other successful film-score creators, including Hans Zimmer, who wrote the Gladiators soundtrack.
I also wondered why Morricone evokes such an emotional response from his audience. And when you see him in person, there is something about his frail frame that increases your awe. For sure, has achieved a great deal, he has written some beautiful music, and has dedicated his life to his art. But many people have done that. But yet, we don’t feel the admiration towards them that we do to him.
So after several days of swirling thoughts, here is my list of…
Why Morricone’s music stirs us at a deep level?
Reason 1: His ability to show a palette of emotions and moods through sound.
Many musicians specialise in a particular genre: mystical, haunting or romantic. Artists can create music that is emotional, poppy, victorious, or melodies that are deeply melancholic or evocative. Morricone, on the other hand creates a range and depth of music that is not seen in many other artists. His music can be scary (the Hateful Eight). He can also create romantic music (Cinema Paradiso), moving, dramatic music (the Mission) and music that can almost send us into sensory- overload (the Ecstasy of Gold).
Reason 2: The range and balance of instruments.
While I confess to having no classical musical training, other that a brief flirtation with the piano (apparently one had to practice to be good), and singing in a few school operas (the choir that is, no prestigious solos for me). He uses a wide range of instruments: grand piano, electric piano, pan-pipes, drums, oboes, trumpets, harp, violin, flute, male and female voices. No instrument, or voice seems to dominate; no one voice seems to overwhelm, no one instrument is over-used. All is in balance. I hear a flautist’s solo and think: “Ah I haven’t hear the little flute for a while, how sweet the sound.”
Reason 3: His choice of solo singers.
This year, Susanne Rigacci accompanied him. She has a remarkable voice, great stage presence and an Italian-ness that blends well with his dramatic music. Try listening to this and see if you can even remember what you had planned to do next.
Susanne Rigacci accompanying the Ecstasy of Gold (from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly).
Reason 4: His ordinariness.
Yes, really. And why is that? His 88 years-young body that walks slowly, carefully to the stage. No Freddy Mercury-style showmanship here. He opens up his music score without flourish. He could be a man opening a novel on the tram. There is something ordinary about his manner. It could be my father up there on stage. It could be yours.
His under-stated on-stage performance is refreshing. There are no special effects. Thus the spotlight stays on the musicians and singers. He does not draw attention to himself – save to bow when the audience offers a Standing Ovation. And his bow is not the bow of a glory-hog, it is a bow of servitude and gratitude.
While I cannot re-create the concert for you, watch him here receive his Oscar in 2016 for “best original film score”. He takes a piece of paper, which looks like it was torn from a school copybook. His speech is brief and to the point, and in his native Italian.
Morricone’s 2016 Oscar acceptance speech:
Highlights of the 2017 Show
I must admit that I am always nervous going to see the same artist twice. However, it was a completely different show. And did the audience like him this time? Three standing ovations and a teary-eyed journalist – that is all you need to know.
The Mission: Gabriel’s Oboe
The Hateful 8
My Personal Favourite
Cinema Paradiso: “The Love Theme”. At one point, I owned the CD of this film score.
One of the things that I most admire in this world, are those folk who could legitimately retire, and who still take their career seriously and continue to create. To me, there is nothing sadder than a talented “older” person who appears to think it is time to sit back, eat more cake and slowly decay while letting the “young ones” have their time. And if there is a role model to never retire, or at least to never stop creating and doing what we love, it is Ennio Morricone.