Thursday, 8 December 2016

Maestro Morricone's "Bambini del mondo"

Title: Bambini del mondo
Year: 2015
Composer: Ennio Morricone

The album Bambini del mondo is one of the hardest to find in Maestro Morricone’s entire catalogue though it’s only a year old. The reason for that is the fact that it’s only sold at his concerts. Maestro had tried to publish it commercially but there was no interest for that from record labels so he published the album himself. I managed to find it at his Helsinki concert. The album consists of 6 classical works written for acapella children’s choir Coro di voci bianche dell’Arcum, and a few other instruments in some of the pieces. Maestro’s absolute music works are usually very challenging and contemporary in style which is also true with Bambini del mondo. However this collection of works from the 70s to the 21st century is far more listenable than the other compilation I own from him called Chamber music.

The first piece is the title track Bambini del mondo, which translates to Children of the world. The booklet actually has a page from the piece and it has different series of notes describing different nationalities, e.g. Senegal, China, Japan and Native American. The piece is at the same time alien and odd with folk music like progressions but at times it’s bordering sacred choral music. It seems that the different melodies are performed quite freely on top of each other some fading away temporarily and some appearing again from elsewhere. The overall soundscape is rather unique and actually quite pleasant. It reminds me a bit of Maestro’s work in the film Il sorriso del grande tentatore where a children’s choir was used a bit in a similar fashion. Sometimes the melodies collide with deliciously beautiful results but those moments float away as quickly as they appeared.

The following work Tre scioperi is far more challenging compared to the slow-moving nature of the opening. It has purely atonal harmonies that are quite brutal in their aggressive nature. The text for the piece was written by an author and film director Pier Paolo Pasolini who Morricone had worked with previously. The first part introduces a bass drum that is played by the Maestro and it provides a few hits that give the music almost a feeling of tribal worship. The second part slows down a bit and has few parts of the choir conversing with each other in a non-melodic manner. The third part has the choir finally singing in joint harmonies rather beautifully before the madness of the first two parts returns for a short while. The ending is actually a moment of celestial beauty with harmonies that start to resemble common chords elevated with a few hits from the bass drum.

Echi begins with an atonal cello solo performed by Livia De Romanis. The choir then comes in with short phrases that echo and resonate in the otherwise empty space. The cello and choir continue their dialogue throughout the work providing no apparent highs or lows which makes the track rather monotonous. Questo è un testo senza testo is a polyphonic work with harmonies once again bordering tonal and atonal writing. It also includes spoken parts for a section of the choir that sound a bit distracting compared to the overall feel of the work.

The other work with several parts is called Il silenzio, il gioco, la memoria. The first part starts with surprisingly beautiful slow-moving harmonies but as the piece progresses they become more and more atonal. It has a feel to some pieces by Ligeti and could fit rather well to Kubrick’s 2001. The second part Zum Beispiel introduces a bouncy melody that is repeated in a fugal fashion as other parts of the choir start their own developments of short repeated phrases on top the established base. Then comes a moment of weird swaying motion that actually sounds like there were some electronics at play but miraculously the effect is just achieved with the power of voices. The last part returns to the beginning’s harmonic base this time with more movement.

The last piece Arcate d’archi con bambini, the newest of the bunch from 2011 is the crowning achievement of the album. It’s the only one to include an orchestra, Czech National Symphony Orchestra to be exact with a violin solo performed by Prisca Amori. The orchestra introduces slow romantic chords with hints of expressionistic sadness to them while the moving violin performs delicately like a birdsong giving the piece more emotional depth. The piece is actually a variation of Maestro’s Above the Clouds (Theme from Fat Man and Little Boy) with the voice of Edda dell’Orso replaced by the violin. The choir appears at the work’s middle point providing wordless la-las that once again come in and disappear seemingly independently of the other material. The whole piece has a feel of flying through the air with heavenly voices calling from beyond.

The album is a collectors’ item for sure and if you happen to find one at Maestro’s concert, I’d recommend you to consider purchasing it. As with any album consisting of Maestro’s classical works, this one should be approached with caution because the sound of children singing atonal harmonies may not be everyone’s favourite. However the first and the last piece and a few other highlights provide enough material to keep the listener at least intrigued by Maestro’s versatility if not completely entertained.

Rating: ***1/2

1. Bambini del mondo (09:50) *****

Tre scioperi
2. Primo sciopero (02:17) ***
3. Secondo sciopero (03:26) **
4. Terzo sciopero (05:00) ****

5. Echi (07:44) ***
6. Questo è un testo senza testo (04:08) ***

Il silenzio, il gioco, la memoria
7. Per J.C. (07:10) ***
8. Zum Beispiel (04:06) ****
9. Voce bianca (03:03) ***

10. Arcate d’archi con bambini (11:25) *****

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