Ennio Morricone: the man, the myth, the legend. Few film composers are as iconic or prolific as the Italian maestro. Between 400 and 500 scores bear his name, from Sergio Leone’s westerns to Roland Joffé’s The Mission. Marching onstage at London’s O2 Arena, dressed all in black like a Leone gunslinger, Morricone and his 86-piece orchestra shot higher than all expectations to make My Life In Music an unforgettable concert and an incredible evening.
Opening with the propulsive and dangerous strains of The Untouchables’ The Strength of The Righteous, Morricone conducted with the swagger of a true musical untouchable. Slipping seamlessly into the softly beautiful Deborah’s Theme from Once Upon A Time In America immediately showcased his compositional range, proving emblematic of the concert at large; so much more than master of Spaghetti Westerns. The audience sat in rapt attention, until the dipped baton at the conclusion of The Legend of 1900 led to the first of many explosions of applause, and the humble bows of a musical titan who, in the composing pantheon, bows to no one.
For all the stone cold classics in his legendary repertoire, one of the evening’s pleasures was unearthing hidden gems. Playfully referenced in the programme as ‘Scattered Sheets’, these pieces proved to be an eclectic mix of musical styles from films largely unseen outside their native lands. Those who had not previously heard of The Sicilian Clan or Love Circle will be driven to seek them out based on the cool guitar licks and smooth percussion. This sense of discovery continued into Act Two, where Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion and La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso amazed with their instrumentation and invention. In the notes Morricone explained that as well as playing their favourites he wanted audiences to experience pieces he wanted them to hear. An inspired choice by one far from short of inspiration.
But those who came for their favourites were not left disappointed. The pulsatingly militaristic titles for The Battle Of Algiers, the nostalgic and emotive Cinema Paradiso and the heart swelling Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission were all thrillingly performed. However the unquestionable high note was The Ecstasy Of Gold from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Aided by the flawless vocals of soprano Susanna Rigacci and a 75 voice choir, the awe inspiring wall of sound of strings, brass and percussion was spine-tingling. So well received it was played both at the end of the first act and as one of three encores, many an audience member would be forgiven for saddling a horse and riding into the London night.
Of course the assembled thousands were there not just for the music, but for the man. Rescheduled from December, when much of his world tour was cancelled due to recovery from spinal surgery, they acclaimed the 86-year-old Morricone as a musical god. Aside from being seated throughout he made little concession to his advanced years, although as proceedings wore on he leaned heavier on the rostrum taking his bows, giving a sense of the physical toll. As he strode off stage after multiple encores and rapturous ovations, audience joy was tinged with sadness; this may be the last time they see him in concert. But if he is to head off into the sunset after five decades, his legend, and his music, will live on forever. Grazie mille, Signor Morricone!
Ennio Morricone: My Life In Music was at The O2 Arena on 5th February