Sunday, 23 January 2011

Sunday Morning Coffee with Ennio Morricone

Another week gone – where does the time go? – and Sunday has come round.  Am I ready?   YES!  And what a show is waiting for you: one of the greats of movie music.


Before we start you need a large coffee, a comfy chair.  Sit down and relax and the music will visit you.


The Mission:                               On Earth as it is in Heaven

Unsurprisingly this carries a spiritual air but you don’t need me to say any more.

The music starts after 10 secs.



Ennio was born in Rome in late 1928 to Mario – a jazz trumpeter - and Lobera Morricone [Source].  He must have shown great talent very young because, when 12, he studied music at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome



Cinema Paradiso:                                            Final Theme

One of my favourite films and this music brings the story back.

This couldn’t be anything but a film a score with its large sweeping strings but this is so much more ….


Morricone was a classmate of Sergio Leone with whom he would collaborate on spaghetti Westerns.



Maddelena / Le Professionel:                                  Chi Mai

I knew this piece but had no idea of its origins.  This was used first in Maddelena and later in Le Professionel.



At the Music conservatory he was urged to focus on composition: great advice.



Once upon a Time in the West:         Jill’s America

The beautiful Claudia Cardinale is ‘Jill’.

Again the strings’ sound could only mean a film but what a wonderful sound.  The music gives me a picture of openness, as though of the vastness of the ‘Wild West’.


Coming up next is one of his most famous pieces and remember you can have a break after this, our fifth, track.




The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:   Theme

What can one say about this – a collaboration with Sergio Leone.

This is so evocative.  The music describes the film.

“The spaghetti Westerns only comprised a phase of Morricone's career, but for many his work in this field remains his best and most innovative. Morricone amplified the film's plots and drama through ingenious use of diverse arrangements and instrumentation. Jew's harps, dissonant harmonicas, dancing piccolos, bombastic church organs, eerie whistling, thundering trumpets, oddly sung gunfighter ballads, and ghostly vocal choruses -- all became trademarks of the Morricone-Leone productions, then of the spaghetti Western genre as a whole.” [Source]


Half-time.  I’m having a short break if you are.  Stretch your legs, top up your coffee and then relax once more before we get the second half under way.

That’s my quick snack finished – cheese roll, always a cheese roll.  Let’s go.



Malena:                                                               Titon Di Coda

I had never heard the music before; in fact, the film itself was new to me.

This is a very moving piece.  Unlike many of the other pieces which are expansive this, in the main, is tight and close.  I love this.


“Ennio Morricone is probably the most famous film composer of the 20th century. He is also one of the most prolific composers working in any medium. No exact figure is available, but he's scored several hundred films over the past several decades, perhaps as many as 500.” [Source]



The Mission:  Gabriel’s Oboe; The Falls              Yo Yo Ma

Two tracks here: the first the very famous Gabriel’s Oboe and the other, ‘The Falls’  both with Yo Yo Ma’s cello to the fore.

O! The soaring cello in ‘oboe’.

‘The Falls’ start so heavily and threateningly and then at 3m 25s, the music tip-toes slowly and securely as though  one was afraid of what was lurking.  At 4m 15s the music changes again to be confident and then the ‘oboe’ theme comes in once more.  I don’t know why I’ve been able to write this detail about only this piece.


“Morricone's palette is extraordinarily diverse, drawing from classical, jazz, pop, rock, electronic, avant-garde, and Italian music, among other styles. Esteemed by such important figures in modern music as John Zorn (not to mention contemporary directors like Martin Scorsese), he is increasingly placed among not just the finest soundtrack composers, but the most important contemporary composers of any sort.” [Source]



The Legend of 1900:                                               The Crisis

This creates the feeling of crisis with its repeated dissonant chord.  This chord assumes greater and greater importance as the piece progresses.

Despite the subject matter this touches me.  No!  Batters me!


I have read somewhere that Sergio Leone got Morricone to write the scores before filming and that he played the music to the actors during scenes.


The Mercenary

Another film whose subject matter is held up for us to hear in this vey clever and lovely piece.  Gunshots and the loneliness of the mercenary made plain for us through the solo whistler and trumpet.

A very powerful composition.


IMDb said this:

“It's been felt by some that he was deprived of a possible Academy Award when the U.S. distributor of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America (1984) failed to file the paperwork so the score could be considered for nomination. This score is still regarded as one of his best.”



Once upon a Time in the West:                                  Finale

I didn’t know the above when I chose this as the last track.  Clearly I’m in good company!

There is a spiritual air to this.  Excuse me while I fly on this magic carpet to a place I’ve never seen.  Close your eyes and fly with me.

Wonderful, don’t you think?


The show is over but those who have heard Morricone’s music will never forget it. 

A master has written and we have listened.  Many thanks, Ennio


If you have enjoyed this week please pop over again next Sunday. Each week’s Sunday Morning Coffee is available on  my YouTube channel.


  1. Good morning, Calum!

    Thanks for this - it makes for a lovely Sunday morning.

    Choices, choices - with something like this post, it's always a question of what you put in and what you leave out ...

    I was a little disappointed you didn't give us anything from Once Upon A Time In America (and I love the time change sequence where he manages to bring in Lennon and McCartney's Yesterday). Just to add an encore, here's Deborah's Theme! :-)

  2. Hi Francis,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    You're right re choices.

    When I started the shows, more than a year ago now, I included only 6 tracks which went to 8 and now to 10. I don't know if the show would be better to be shorter and punchier: the music won but still, most weeks, the choice is incredibly difficult. I listen and listen and listen, whittling away until I reach the magic 10 but, each week, I must leave out music I love. 'Deborah's Theme' dropped out at the last cut.

    Unfortunately this means also that all listeners will be disappointed to a degree.

    Hopefully in future weeks you'll find your favourites there for you.

  3. Chi Mai was released as a single (in 1980 I think) and I bought it on my return from working in France as a student that summer. It is associated with some strong emotions in my head because of the events of that summer and it brings back very strong memories. Strange to find this morning that it still has the same effect as it did 30 years ago! Thank you :-)

  4. Ruth

    Thanks. Happy memories, I trust.

    Lovely to 'see' you around.

    Take care.


  5. While people like Morricone exist, good will exist in the world because these people bring enjoyment and not misery.

  6. James

    We have much to thank the creative - from any sphere - for the beauty and joy they bring.

  7. For today, and other days, merci de tout coeur!

  8. Claude

    Hello again after your short absence.

    Many, many thanks for your continued support.