Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Love and other drugs: part 2

Title: Don Giovanni in Sicilia
Year: 1977
Composer: Bruno Nicolai

Originally a film in 1967 then made into a three-part TV miniseries 10 years later. Bruno Nicolai was associated with both the projects, as he conducted the first score by Armando Trovajoli and composed the music for the TV series. Otherwise there is no musical connection between the projects. Nicolai took inspiration from the locale and created a score that might just sound nonchalantly light and breezy at first but reveals some depth during further listens.

The score begins by introducing the two primary themes which both are built in a same way: they have a melancholic beginning usually played by solo instruments whereas B section brings the romantic flavour of Sicilia sometimes even featuring lovely string arrangements. In Sicilia has the unmistakable sound of Alessandro Alessandroni’s high whistling introducing the A section melody before the romantic B section appears. As the cue goes on the romance is amped up with modulation and summery accordion and theatre organ. A counterpart to the opening is A letto which is the melody the score most returns to. It starts with just the accordion and guitar and this time the B section has only minimal arrangement for mandolin and underlying tango rhythms from the accordion. The following Le sorelle goes even more restrained with its instrumentation before it turns into a short lively tango piece.

The two main themes feature heavily in many of the album’s cues. The first one has probably its best version in Don Procopio where the whistling is replaced by a melancholic solo accordion which is seriously moving in its simplicity. A surprising variation is heard in track 13 where the melody is heard over martial drums and serious string section and later joined by military trumpet calls. Alessandroni’s whistling returns in track 24 in a more restrained fashion. The album’s ending cue on the other hand features a moving oboe solo and offers a summery closure with romantic accordions. The second theme isn’t as interesting but there are some clever variations like in track 6 which has an overdramatic accompanying piano performance or Don Giovanni where the dramatic tango version is made grander by an appearance of the strings. The odd comical opening to tracks 19 and 25 reminds me of some crime flicks of the time.

Besides the two themes there are other source music inspired cues as well. Mediterranea’s spooky beginning has odd sproings made with Jew’s harp over an organ line before the mood changes completely to a happy dance perfect for a summery beach stroll but the oddness still continues underneath with more sproings. The reprise of the dance melody in track 14 is just incredibly fun with soothing string countermelodies that it creates easily one of the album’s best tracks. Marranzanu is a piece for just solo Jew’s harps which aren’t the most melodic of instruments hence creating a moment of fleeting annoyance. There’s also a short piece of Medieval-sounding theatre music in Teatrino which unfortunately gets rather repetitive eventually. A piece called La giostra aka ‘merry-go-round’ starts strangely with rather dark atmospheres that cleverly introduce a melody that turns into an actual cheery merry-go-round tune during the cue’s latter half. Inverno a Milano has a feeling of the primary themes with its construction but this time the melancholy isn’t released into a gorgeous major key B section rather the sorrowful intensity continues through the whole cue. The following wedding organ of Sposalizio is a surprising change of pace but nevertheless beautiful in its own right. A straight-up ballroom tango for a violin-piano duo called Ninetta is passionate and dramatic but unfortunately doesn’t reach a proper climax. Luna di Cibali on the other hand brings a moment of pure impressionistic beauty with a guitar solo over jazzy organ harmonies.

As you can see from my review the score to Don Giovanni in Sicilia is a mish-mash of styles inspired mostly by popular music and having a few nods to classical composers as well. The repetition of A letto/Le sorelle theme can be a bit tiring but it doesn’t really bother me that much eventually. Though it’s great Kronos Records decided to release this much music by Nicolai, the album is rather hard to enjoy with one sitting and would need some trimming to be fully immersed in.

Rating: ****

1. In Sicilia (03:33) *****
2. A letto (02:50) ****
3. Le sorelle (02:50) ****
4. Mediterranea (03:22) *****
5. Don Procopio (04:33) *****
6. Le sorelle (02:54) ****
7. Le sorelle (02:45) ***
8. Marranzanu (01:32) **
9. Teatrino (02:08) **
10. La giostra (02:16) ****
11. Dal meridione (01:55) ****
12. Don Giovanni (03:30) ****
13. Le sorelle (03:36) *****
14. Mediterranea (02:06) *****
15. Don Procopio (02:49) *****
16. La giostra (02:11) ***
17. Inverno a Milano (02:48) *****
18. Sposalizio (02:02) ****
19. Le sorelle (01:47) ****
20. La parigina (01:37) ****
21. Ninetta (02:30) ****
22. Le sorelle (02:50) ***
23. Luna di Cibali (03:03) *****
24. In Sicilia (02:33) *****
25. Le sorelle (02:01) ****
26. La giostra (02:56) ***
27. A casa mia (03:33) *****

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