Film Music Review
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BAARIA (2009)


Music composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Ennio Morricone.

19 Tracks (Playing Time = 54:52)

Album produced for RTI S.p.A. by Antonello Navarra ad Paola Vanoni. Score performed by the Roma Sinfonietta and the Band of the Carabinieri Corps. Recording engineered by Fabio Venturi. Music mastered by Massimiliano Nevi, Cantoberon Multimedia, Rome.

Silva Screen Records 1322

Rating: ****


In all honesty, it took a couple of close looks to make sure the composer listed on this new release was Morricone. It has been five years since FATELESS appeared. But this is a Tornatore film (nominated last year for a Golden Globe) and this director-composer pairing has often brought out some of Morricone’s most heartfelt and interesting work (CINEMA PARADISO, MALENA, THE LEGEND OF 1900, EVERYBODY’S FINE). BAARIA (2009) is in some respects Tornatore’s own AMARCORD. The film follows three generations of people living in the very place where the director grew up and the epic has an autobiographical cast that some have found at times a bit too languid. The film does not appear to have received a US release

The opening “Sinfonia per Baaria” running to nearly eleven minutes is a musical tour de force. Morricone slowly unfolds one of his thematic ideas, then shifts into a vocalized Middle-Eastern melodic idea before returning to an expanded rich, lyrical theme that continues to just grow and grow. Along the way the intriguing harmonic and melodic shifts are truly magnificent. Add to this some truly intriguing orchestral combinations (string and shawm, restrained organ against strings) and you realize you are experiencing the work of a master. The track ends with dialogue and sound effects cast against musical punctuation that instantly illustrate the power of music working within its context. The closing minutes with rooster crows, blowing wind and various threads of dialogue, are far more powerful somehow.

“Ribellione” takes on a more large orchestral early 19 th-century sound, sometimes with a little Baroque feel, reminiscent of the composer’s historic dramas. A dotted martial thematic statement is reminiscent of Bizet’s “Farandole” from L’Arlessiene (a clarinet actually plays Bizet’s melody in “La terra”). Morricone’s rich main theme, appearing in “Baaria” begins with a most religious solemnity helped by its being cast on organ with string support that gradually take on the melody as well. This is one of the master’s finest themes hearkening back to his work in THE LEGEND OF 1900. There is a later wind band version as well which illustrates again Morricone’s ability to create well-crafted orchestrations with a near perfect match in winds what he achieved in the organ sections of the orchestral version. A delightful tango appears in “A passeggio net corso” complete with a dissolution into snippets from Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

There are so many gorgeous moments in this score that each new cue demands attention. Some familiar stamps of past Morricone approaches appear throughout. “Lo zoppo” feels a bit like an update from THE UNTOUCHABLES. “Brindisi” features a beautiful lyric idea that plays while a counter idea surfaces in a different key playing quietly almost undiscernibly at times in the background. A slight comedic touch, reminiscent of MALENAs thematic material, appears with Rota-esque touches in “Un gioco sereno.” The martial ideas, dance-like melodies, and unique orchestration are always varied within each recurrence and when Morricone decides to veer into dissonance the effect works both dramatically within the cue and musically within the structure of the music. Halfway through the disc and one is still struck at the sheer variety that the composer brings to his musical materials. The album presentation itself is another masterful creation reminding us of a time when how one’s music was presented really mattered.

Though some may feel like much of the musical territory has been visited by Morricone before, what one marvels at is the breadth of the musical ideas, the dexterous command of harmony and melodic contours, and the always intriguing orchestral choices. 2009 really was a great year for film music and BAARIA reminds us that we still have a few living treasures of film music with a few surprises and wonderful music to write.


--Steven A. Kennedy, 10 September 2010

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