Ennio Morricone: Arena Concerto

Ennio Morricone

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Ennio Morricone: Arena Concerto Review

by William Ruhlmann

Recorded live in Verona, Naples, and Rome, the American two-CD audio version of Ennio Morricone's Arena Concerto (not to be confused with an identically titled European release from a few years earlier) finds the renowned composer conducting the Rome Sinfonietta Orchestra, with several different choirs and some soloists, in a selection of what might be called his greatest hits, starting with his best-known theme in the U.S., the main title music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Morricone's arrangement is much subtler than the 1968 hit version by Hugo Montenegro, but still identifiable, and it introduces a set of cues from spaghetti westerns, the music that people immediately identify with the composer. But that is only the curtain raiser; Morricone goes on to present some of his most lush melodic themes, notably music from Cinema Paradiso, along with a large chunk of arguably his most ambitious score, The Mission, which closes the first disc. The cheering audience is heard only occasionally, giving the recordings the feel of studio work most of the time. Of course, at less than 90 minutes, this is only a sampler of the work of one of the cinema's most prolific composers, but it still makes for a good introduction that could lead the listener to the video store, if not the record store, to hear more. [There is also a DVD of the same name, drawn entirely from the Verona concert.]

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