Ennio Morricone's concert @ Blenheim Palace, 23 June 2016 - An evening to remember


I first came across Ennio Morricone’s music whilst watching Cinema Paradiso (1988) when I was around 15, an endearing Italian film following a young man’s journey in the pursuit of his passion, film-making. He met a teacher who inspired him and a woman who he fell deeply in love with, both of whom he had to make sacrifices in relation to during the pursuit. Ennio Morricone’s score, ‘Love Theme’ perfectly encapsulates this journey’s moments of joy, love and longingness through its exquisite melodic phrases. The score also sounded very Italian, I think because of the romance conveyed.

After hearing more of Ennio Morricone’s music, I realised that he is this formidable composer of romantic, memorable themes and melodies with strong Italian essence – The Mission’s ‘Gabriel’s Oboe,’ Once upon a time in the West’s ‘Jill’s Theme,’ The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’s ‘Ecstasy of Gold,’ 'L'eredita Feramonti' (The Inheritance) and Maddalena’s ‘Chi Mai’ are all examples of incredible scores uplifting scenes in classic films. These scores also work well as masterpieces individually - I haven’t seen a lot of these films but I feel I can depict what happens in them.

At the age of 87, Ennio Morricone is the oldest composer to have received an Academy Award at the Oscars for his suspenseful and cutting-edge score in Tarantino’s ‘Hateful 8’. I felt that this was really about time and when I heard that he was performing live in the UK, I was absolutely adamant that I attend his concert – this was definitely once in a lifetime opportunity.

His concert was set outside in the beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace, Oxford, which took about 2 hours to get there from London. I cannot describe the sheer beauty of Blenheim Palace in words…

The Great Lake was glistening

The Great Lake was glistening

Where the sheep grazed

Where the sheep grazed

The Palace, home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill

The 200 strong orchestra in Ennio Morricone's concert, which included non-traditional instrumentalists such as electric guitarists and drummers played with fiery heat and emotion. I was fascinated by how Ennio Morricone's pieces combined the classical orchestra with these non-traditional instruments - it's great contemporary work. I particularly enjoyed the harpist’s solo passages and the pianist, who at some point used one hand to play on the Steinway grand and another hand on the electric keyboard.

The programme covered all of Ennio Morricone’s masterpieces that I have mentioned already and made me discover new ones, such as:

  • La Migliore Offerta's 'Volti e fantasmi' (The Best Offer's 'Faces and Ghosts')

The strings sections were haunting and reminded me of moments being in an Italian gothic cathedral.

  • Metti, Una Sera a Cera's 'Croce d'amore' (One Night at Dinner and Love Circle's 'Cross of Love')

The piano held this very mysterious riff using only the first three notes in the C minor scale whilst instruments, like the electric guitar, drum cymbals and wind instruments added more colourful tones.

  • Red Tent's 'Do Dreams Go On'

This uplifting piece had great interaction of major and minor harmonies, further enhanced by the flute's songful melodic lines.

  • 'H2S'

I never thought one could do much with C major scale passages but Ennio Morricone did! The piano played modified C major sequences and the orchestra just built up very jolly-sounding harmonies. The flute again also carried this happy mood further.

I was very impressed with Ennio Morricone's showmanship. Although he didn't give any commentary himself, he conducted the pieces as if he was telling a story to us with his orchestra. He had a lot of energy and commanded the orchestra very well. The encore of the 'Ecstasy of Gold' where he took us by surprise was definitely special!

Overall, this was an evening to remember! I was amazed by the variety of instruments, the creativity in his works and strong command in his conducting.

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