Monday, 29 May 2017

Need for drama: part 6

Title: Padre Pio – tra cielo e terra
Composer: Ennio Morricone
Year: 2000

Maestro Morricone is no stranger to scoring films featuring religious figures. In the 2000s he composed the music for three TV movies about two popes: John Paul II and John XXIII. However the first project of that nature in the new millennium for him was the music written for a TV miniseries about a monk called Padre Pio who, among other things, exhibited stigmata and was later canonized by the Catholic Church. The music offers a kind of religious quality that Morricone has provided to many films over the years. No matter the connotations, it is a pleasant and beautiful listening experience in any case.

The score begins with an absolutely stunning performance of the title theme. The A section of the melody is built around a rising hopeful tune reaching for the heavens and written in the composer’s typical style discussed above. Surprisingly it is followed by a short victorious brass fanfare that is sadly never heard again before the B section melody begins along with heavenly choral voices. This section reminds me of the main theme of The mission with similar harmonies and simplicity of the melody. Eventually the moods that started the piece bring it to a peaceful close. The main theme is reprised in La croce della gloria with another Morricone favourite, a solo oboe not far from the one played in that other religious film. The cue’s ending takes a darker turn to a more sacred direction with melodies and harmonies clearly inspired by ancient Latin hymns. Nel silenzio offers a more playful variation of the B section melody over a pizzicato bassline and an occasional bed of warm strings, eventually performed by the chorus in unison. Some textures heard here remind me of another Morricone score from 2000, Mission to Mars. It’s strange how Maestro Morricone can make similar moods work in completely different film genres. The last full reprise of the theme is for solo organ and strings in track 7 and though the organ sounds somewhat synthetic, the backing strings are at their most moving here.

La sofferenza introduces a different long-lined melody, another one that brings tons of others by Morricone to mind. Yet it is just so delicately gorgeous with its presentation and viola solo, that the familiarity doesn’t ruin the overall experience. The reprise of that theme in Dolore come amore is written just for the strings which have such a wonderful echo that makes the sounds float straight down from above. Yet another solo string piece La verita’ nelle stimmate is clearly a sacred composition that doesn’t reach the heights of the previous themes but is still gorgeous with its somber tone. 10-minute Sia fatta la sua volonta takes the minimalism of the album’s beginning to new directions and features a simple harp tune that plays over and over on top of rather abstract string harmonies which are slowly building up with intensity towards an unseen closure. At 6.5-minute mark however the mood warms up to the glorious strings which guide the cue back to a safe haven. Though there seems to be not that much happening, the cue is all about textures and moods that for me depict spirituality through music. It could be either a moment just before sunrise and the first rays of emerging light or a soul ascending through a layer of clouds depending on what you believe in. Nevertheless its beauty is undeniable. La casa della sofferenza brings a smile to my face because there is a direct quote of Gabriel’s oboe’s opening line hidden in the passionate woodwind solo that plays over the harmonic base of the main theme.

There are a few exceptions to the overall free-floating nature of the cues. Il dolore e l’ira is another version of the doomsday hymn Dies irae, this time performed with a harpsichord over rather pleasant harmonies. As the tune gets going, it also gets brisk accompanying staccato chords that add a sense of lurking danger. 7 raccordi is clearly this album’s version of the trademark long suspenseful track. However this time there is just something about the playing which reveals a spectrum of different moods in addition to suspense: terror, agony and perhaps even remorse or reflection. It’s hard to describe but compare it to other straight up Morriconean suspense cues and hear what I mean. For instance the last two sections feature the hymnal quality heard previously at the end of track 3. Those moments are obviously darker than the other material but far from suspenseful. The album ends with Solo voci which is the most sacred cue of all featuring just the acapella choir singing in Latin. Though there are melodic quotes to Dies irae, it is an original composition that doesn’t sound like a composer trying to imitate a sacred sound but a piece of genuine church music. The modern harmonies are soothing with their meditative quality and the piece is a perfect way to end the album that in itself already consists of mostly slow-moving cues.

Even though I’m not a religious person I can still appreciate what Morricone has created here: a true work of beauty that transcends all prejudices one might have with a title like this. No matter if you are a believer or not, there is no denying that this music truly reaches the very depths of the within. Whether you call it a soul or just emotions, you’ll know after listening to this album.

Rating: *****

1. Padre Pio tra cielo e terra (04:18) *****
2. La sofferenza (04:10) *****
3. La croce della gloria (03:24) ****
4. Il dolore e l'ira (03:46) *****
5. Nel silenzio (05:10) ****
6. La verita' nelle stimmate (02:27) ****
7. Tra cielo e terra (03:25) *****
8. Dolore come amore (04:12) *****
9. Sia fatta la sua volonta (09:56) *****
10. La casa della sofferenza (03:20) *****
11. 7 raccordi (10:55) ****
12. Solo voci (05:54) *****

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