Saturday, 19 November 2016

WTF (Weird tho' fabulous): part 1

Title: Maddalena
Year: 1971
Composer: Ennio Morricone

This new series will include music of the obscure works that really can’t be categorized to any specific genre. 1971 was the greatest year in Morricone’s whole career and though many of the works of that year are among the composer’s very best, his score to Maddalena might be the crowning achievement. The film itself is a dramatic art film written and directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz and there is almost no information available of the entire project online. What is mentioned though is the presence of Morricone’s score which is praised heavily. However most of it is highly experimental and should be approached with caution.

The album opens with a piece called Come Maddalena which could actually be my personal favourite cue by the Maestro. It combines ingeniously moods from popular, religious and classical music. The track begins with a long introduction by the jazzy percussion playing of Vincenzo Restuccia that is joined by the church organ of Bruno Nicolai. Soon the soothing voice of Edda dell’Orso is added to the mix and we’re introduced to a bouncy counter melody sung by a children’s choir. The film’s actual main theme is introduced around 3.5-minute mark first by the organ and Edda’s soprano solo before expanding to the whole choir and string section. The melody is heartbreakingly beautiful and fragile and it reminds me of Maestro’s previous work in spaghetti westerns. The album ends with a disco version from 1978 which actually is a positive surprise because the added percussion and bass don’t really transform the piece into a danceable tune but rather elevate the material into greater heights by building intensity as the piece progresses. The piece has to have some significance to its creator as well because Maestro Morricone has performed it live in many of his concerts.

And no matter how impressive the opening track is, it’s still isn’t the piece that causes Maddalena’s overall attraction. That prize goes to Chi mai which was later popularized by reappearing in a French film Le professionnel also scored by Morricone, or as the main title theme to a British TV series The life and times of David Lloyd George or in a French dog food commercial. But seriously, it’s a magnificent piece which provides much needed sweetness among the trippy psychedelic cues. The cue comprises of a meandering, breezy string melody that is light as a feather accompanied by a light pop beat. The B section revolves around romantic and passionate harpsichord. The album provides tons of different versions of the theme from a more rhythmically accurate original single version to the film’s main star Lisa Gastoni’s love songs sung in Italian, French and English.

One reason for Chi mai's success.

Just before sailing to uncharted territories we’re greeted by the dreamlike Una donna da ricordare which has the flute and children’s choir variating the main theme and its counter melody softly. But the big one has to be Pazzia in cielo in which all the nightmares are unleashed. It’s almost a 10-minute psychedelic mixture of wild percussion, aggressively condemning church organ and the mantra-like variation of the Dies irae melody and cluster chords provided by the choir. The ending includes a majestic organ version of the main theme that rises above all the surrounding chaos. Intermezzo per pianoforte is a short solo piano interlude which adds to the oppressive atmosphere with its techniques popularized by the composers of the contemporary era. Erotico mistico has recalls to Maestro’s work in giallo films when the orgasmic sighing of Edda dell’Orso makes an appearance. In the reprise of that track they become even more pronounced and the chaotic atmosphere cools down significantly into a hazy wet dream. What makes the atmosphere even more disturbing though is hearing the children’s choir singing the counter melody amid the sexual moaning but luckily the main theme lingers in the background for some atonement.

Describing the music of Maddalena might sound very cryptic due to its unique nature. The 10-minute trippy cues that dominate the album’s middle part provide challenging, at times spiritual, at times infernal musical landscapes. However amid all the chaos there’s something that penetrates the listener’s very soul. Not to mention the awesome main theme and counter melody that are the glue that keeps the chaotic cues from falling apart. To put it shortly, Maddalena is like a hypnotic dream that balances on the thin line between nightmares and light naps, and it proves how originality can be applied into a film score with guts and controlled madness.

Rating: *****

1. Come Maddalena (09:11) *****
2. Chi mai (03:33) *****
3. Una donna da ricordare (04:17) *****
4. Chi mai (versione italiana) (03:23) *****
5. Pazzia in cielo (09:47) *****
6. Maddalena (intermezzo per pianoforte) (02:47) ***
7. Chi mai (versione singolo) (03:26) *****
8. Erotico Mistico (09:47) *****
9. Chi mai (versione francese) (03:24) ****
10. Pazzia in cielo (#2) (09:46) *****
11. Erotico Mistico (#2) (08:18) *****
12. Chi mai (versione inglese) (03:26) ****
13. Come Maddalena (versione 12" maxi Disco 78) (06:37) *****

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