Sunday, 4 December 2016

Need for drama: part 1

Title: Giovinezza giovinezza (Youth march)
Year: 1969
Composer: Piero Piccioni

One other Italian film music Maestro yet to be introduced on this site is Piero Piccioni, who as many other composers of his era started as a jazz musician before turning to film music. His main instruments were piano and organ which are featured heavily on his scores. Also his jazz roots are clearly heard in many of his works but the orchestral writing on the other hand usually leans towards the impressionism of the 20th century. His score to a drama film Giovinezza giovinezza about student movement in fascist Italy combines beautifully both styles.

The main theme is heard straight at the beginning in Titoli which is a simple, misty rising and falling melody played with a surprising instrumental choice, namely the Russian balalaika. The underlying orchestral support on the other hand is very impressionistic which elevates the melody into something more interesting than its first impression gives away. The melody was reprised and developed further in Piccioni’s score to Le altre the same year. Ricordi lontani reprises the main theme in a nostalgic fashion. There’s an underwater quality about the music as many of the tracks have so much echo, sounding like they were recorded in a huge space e.g. in a cathedral of some sort. My favourite examples of this are probably Circostanze che dividono and Ideali which are just dreamy in their floating serenity, though latter provides the first glimpse to the lurking danger. The main theme forms basis to Giulio, Mariuccia e Giordano with a faster pace and more desperate atmosphere than before. However my absolute favourite version has to be Tema conduttore blues which transforms the main theme into a steamy jazz club number complete with vibraphone flourishes. The last versions of the main theme Un futuro senza futuro, Tre amici non si incontreranno mai più and Finale provide a nostalgic look back to the innocence of the album’s beginning that feels now rather distant after the uneasiness of some of the album’s middle tracks.

There’s also another theme heard first at the beginning of the 7-minute introverted slightly out-of-tune solo Come in un sogno for an instrument resembling a harpsichord which has such impressionistic harmonies that it actually sounds a bit menacing and even atonal at times which gives it an eerie quality. The melody moves towards a long developmental section that variates the main theme in a very strange harmonic language that is surprisingly appealing. Again the piano has a wonderful echo that just seems to radiate out of the otherwise empty space. The track’s two reprises are for a solo piano and are even more introverted in nature. Eeriness intensifies with Amore segreto where the balalaikas and strings form a threatening layer for the main theme to appear once again. The second theme returns in Breve incontro, Tre anime in pena and Tre destini which provide couple of atmospheric moments of danger amid the more traditionally beautiful pieces.

The album also includes an abundance of source cues typical of the era. Musica da bello Latina is a Latin-flavoured dance piece with bossa nova rhythms and jazzy trumpet flourishes, however it gets a bit repetitive during its 5-minute duration. There’s also a period waltz suitable for a ballroom scene, Musica da bello valzer which is again lovely but not that memorable eventually. Musica cabaret is actually a completely mad piece featuring weird harmonies and barking brass instruments which is just a blast with its insanity. More traditional cabaret pieces are actually the two Musica jazz cues and Radio blues with their trumpet and clarinet solos over sleazy piano, banjo strumming and drum set backing. There are also two clearly more ‘rural’ tracks providing source music from the surrounding area rather than dance halls: Momento popolare is an solo accordion piece with a strange rhythm (or deliberately played incorrectly) whereas Il fronte Grego is a folk song sung possibly in Greek (I’m not familiar with the language so I can’t really tell).

The score is an introverted piece of music that floats around in emptiness even during the more suspenseful moments. Even the source cues fit rather well into the mix with their intimate chamber or jazz club sized ensembles. Though the main theme can get repetitive after a while and its simplicity may annoy some listeners, there still is wonderful orchestral bliss to discover in this score if given a chance. It’s not a classic for sure but I’m grateful Beat Records took a risk once again and let us hear this rare gem from a time long gone.

Rating: ****

1. Giovinezza giovinezza (Titoli) (03:05) *****
2. Giovinezza giovinezza (Musica da ballo latina) (05:18) ****
3. Giovinezza giovinezza (Ricordi lontani) (01:22) *****
4. Giovinezza giovinezza (Musica da ballo valzer) (02:21) ***
5. Giovinezza giovinezza (Circostanze che dividono) (02:13) *****
6. Giovinezza giovinezza (Come in un sogno) (07:19) ****
7. Giovinezza giovinezza (Giulio, Mariuccia e Giordano) (02:49) ****
8. Giovinezza giovinezza (Musica cabaret) (01:19) ****
9. Giovinezza giovinezza (Ideali) (01:43) *****
10. Giovinezza giovinezza (Musica jazz) (02:00) ****
11. Giovinezza giovinezza (Amore segreto) (01:38) ****
12. Giovinezza giovinezza (Momento popolare) (01:02) ***
13. Giovinezza giovinezza (Breve incontro) (01:47) ***
14. Giovinezza giovinezza (Musica jazz) (01:21) *****
15. Giovinezza giovinezza (Tre anime in pena) (02:08) ****
16. Giovinezza giovinezza (Radio blues) (02:08) ****
17. Giovinezza giovinezza (Come in un sogno) (02:25) ****
18. Giovinezza giovinezza (Il fronte Greco) (01:15) **
19. Giovinezza giovinezza (Tre destini) (01:18) ***
20. Giovinezza giovinezza (Tema conduttore blues) (02:40) *****
21. Giovinezza giovinezza (Un futuro senza futuro) (01:38) *****
22. Giovinezza giovinezza (Come in un sogno) (01:16) *****
23. Giovinezza giovinezza (Pensando ai giorni felici) (01:06) ****
24. Giovinezza giovinezza (Tre amici non si incontreranno mai più) (01:18) ****
25. Giovinezza giovinezza (Tema conduttore blues) (03:50) ****
26. Giovinezza giovinezza (Finale) (02:20) ****

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