Tribute to Ennio Morricone

3 August 2020

Ennio Morricone, the great Italian composer, passed away on 6 July 2020 at the age of 91. Morricone was close to EFA and several EFA members for many decades. Considered as one of the greatest and most influential film composers of all time, Morricone changed the sound of cinema. We want to highlight in this tribute his long artistic career and his most important works.

He was born in Rome on 10 November 1928 and was enrolled in the Accademia Santa Cecilia when he was 12. His father, Mario, was also a musician. Although he became famous mainly known for his film scores, he wrote music in a wide variety of genres and styles. At first he became known for his concert works and earned a living in the 1950s as a jazz trumpeter and by composing for radio. It wasn't till 1961, at the age of 33, that he became involved with film, a score for Il Federale, directed by Luciano Salce.

His real breakthrough came when he teamed up with his childhood school friend, Sergio Leone, three years later, when Leone began his series of 'spaghetti westerns' with Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars. His music for these films reinvented the sound of the genre, moving it away from the Hollywood reliance on late romantic big orchestras to a more spare modern style that reflected Leone's pared back scripts, basic sets and concentration on faces. For all Eastwood's laconic drawl, these were European tales of the outsider in a hostile landscape. The follow-up, in 1965, For A Few Dollars More, continued the development but it was his music for the third in the sequence, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, in 1966 than really caught the imagination of the public. Far more ambitious, from both Morricone and Leone, was Once Upon A Time In The West, which was as much music as cinematography, and cast Henry Fonda as the bad guy, a real break from the star's usual persona.

From the 1970s Morricone widened his range of collaborative partners, writing for the trilogy of La Cage aux Folles by Édouard Molinaro’s (I & II) and Georges Lautner (III), The Untouchables by Brian De Palma, (1987) and Frantic by Roman Polanski. One of his most impressive scores was for the extraordinary Novecento (1900), starring Robert de Niro and Gerard Depardieu, for Bernardo Bertolucci (1976). Other directors he worked with included Gillo Pontecorvo, Pier Paolo Pasolini (the much banned Salo in 1975), Giuliano Montaldo, Lina Wertmuller, Warren Beatty, Adrian Lyne, Oliver Stone, Margarethe Von Trotta, Henry Verneuil, Pedro Almodovar and Roland Joffè (The Mission). In 1989 he wrote one of his most haunting scores for the nostalgic story of a man obsessed with the early days of film in Giuseppe Tornatore's Il Cinema Paradiso. Looking back at his huge variety of music for around 500 films, Morricone once said, “It could have been extremely boring to write musical scores for only westerns or horror films. It was really exciting for me to work in all these various genres.”

Morricone wrote for the concert hall from 1946 onward. Among his more important works are Concerto for Orchestra no.1 (1957); Frammenti di Eros (1985); Cantata per L’Europa (1988); UT, for trumpet, strings and percussion (1991); Ombra di lontana presenza (1997); Voci dal silenzio (2002); Sicilo ed altri frammenti (2007) and Vuoto d’anima piena (2008).

He was just as happy writing pop music, composing songs for an eclectic group of performers including Mireille Mathieu, kd lang, Francoise Hardy, Demis Roussos, Paul Anka and the Pet Shop Boys.

In 2001, Ennio Morricone began a period of intense concert activity, conducting his film music and concert works for symphony orchestra and choir in more than 100 concerts across Europe, Asia, USA, Central and South America.

During his career, Ennio Morricone received many awards and prizes, though probably not as many as he deserved. In 2007, he received an Honorary Oscar "for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music." This was as much an admission of guilt by the Motion Picture Academy as anything else, for Morricone had been nominated three times without winning and, in the opinion of many, should have been recognised much earlier. He finally won for Tarantino's The Hateful Eight in 2016. He was also awarded an Honorary Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival, several Grammy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Nastri D’argento, David di Donatello, European Film Awards...

Ennio Morricone's death was marked by Italian health minister Roberto Speranza, who tweeted: "Adieu maestro, and thank you for the emotions you gave us." His long artistic career and fantastic works have influenced many artists from film scoring to other styles and genres. Morricone’s artworks will remain with us forever: “They’re all my children… every score I’ve done”!

Here are some words of EFA members:

At the beginning, the relationship started nothing but trouble. I, who am always early, arrived 5 minutes late and the Maestro told me 'we start off badly...'. Then things changed, he liked the sound of the wooden flute; soon after he wrote me 'above the music sheet bars' the cadences for the cantata Vuoto di anima piena and then, for the 60th anniversary of EFA, the Notturno Passacaglia (NDLR the piece starts at 0'35) that I will play in his memory at the Teatro alla Scala on 11 October. 
Few musicians in the world have reached, and stayed in, the heart of people. And when you worked with him, he had the ability to say the right word that transformed the meaning of music; now I imagine him transfigured into pure sound.” Massimo Mercelli, Artistic Director and Founder of Emilia Romagna Festival, Honorary Member of EFA

It is with great commotion and sadness that we learned about the passing of the great Ennio Morricone, the most globally beloved and famous Italian composer of our days. He was at several occasions the protagonist of memorable performances of his music in our city and Riccardo Muti awarded him the Ravenna Festival Prize in 2004 .Ravenna Festival

The music of the great maestro has been a feature of the repertoire of Ljubljana Festival ever since 1997, and his unique and monumental work will undoubtedly continue to enrich us in the future.Ljubljana Festival