To celebrate that Ennio Morricone been 60 years composing, a number that is said quite quickly but that I’m not sure if there is another composer who has come to match (let alone overcome), this year 2016 the Italian ‘maestro’ has surprised us starting a European tour of 15 concerts distributed throughout more than 10 countries during the months of January and June.
And when I say surprise I should write the word in capital letters, bold and underlined, since it is not easy for a person with 87 years to have the strength and desire to continue composing film music, much less to be in charge of a great orchestra and choir of more than 200 people, conducting massive concerts one after another in multiple different cities.
Some people are resilient, Ennio Morricone is one of them, and the truth is that we are very grateful to him for allowing us to enjoy his music and his presence on a stage live, for as long as it’s possible.
The fact that he has recently won the Oscar of the Academy for the best original score with his work in “The Hateful Eight”, does nothing but increase our admiration for him and for his dedication and contribution to the film music world, having more than 400 works composed throughout his career (cinema, television, concerts, etc…).
But going back to the tour that is now in progress (http://www.enniomorricone.org/events/), many different countries of the European geography have been included such as Germany, Czech Republic, Ireland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Finland, France… although unfortunately, Spain has been left out of the list.
Moreover, following the Oscar won by Ennio Morricone, an additional special concert has been added in Ghent (Belgium), which will be held outdoors in the Sint Pieters square on June 25th, 2016, from which you can find more information at: http://enniomorriconegent.be/
In this article you can read the experience lived in the concert held in Antwerp (Belgium) last month of February 2016 written by Gorka Oteiza for SoundTrackFest.
The repertoire of the tour has been the same in all the places where the concert has taken place, with the exception of the encores that have varied in distribution and duration, depending on how the night would develop.
Below is the list of themes that can be enjoyed at the concerts, and that be found in a beautiful booklet that can be purchased at each show.
A group of 4 film music lovers and good friends, Jaume, David, Felipe and me, traveled during weekend from Spain to attend the concert in Antwerp (Belgium), knowing that every opportunity we have to enjoy Ennio Morricone live is gold, especially if it is the first time you see him in concert (as it happens with some of us), since we do not know how many more options we will have in the coming years to repeat this experience.
That being said, we are all aware that a sports palace, prepared for mass events (both music events and sports events), may not be the best location to enjoy a film music concert in the conditions we would like; proximity conditions and concert hall acoustic conditions. But leaving those considerations apart, we got ready and traveled to Belgium.
The Antwerpen Sportpalais is a huge venue, with capacity for more than 20,000 people, and once we arrived at the place, despite being the venue nearly full, the feeling of good organization and fluidity, both when we entered the venue and in the intermission, were worth highlighting.
There were several drink and food shops in the entrance hall, in addition to an official merchandising store, where among other things you could buy the official program of the tour for € 15, something highly recommended. Once inside we found that the venue was a huge and diaphanous elliptical enclosure, with the stage located in one of the sides, and with tiers on two levels around the contour, in addition to a central arena area with more than 40 rows of chairs placed for the occasion.
I do some quick calculations of capacity, and according to what people who know the place confirm to me later, I came to determine that there were at least from 12,000 to 15,000 people in the concert (if not more).
Our location is quite close to the stage, on the right side of sector 116, with direct views and less than 50 meters from the musicians and the choir and the maestro Ennio Morricone, being able to watch him go up and down the stage using a side walkway, and watching him conduct during all the concert (sitting on a chair).
The concert begins with a slight delay of 10 minutes over the scheduled time (at 8:40 p.m.), and immediately we begin to enjoy the wonderful program that has been prepared, which mixes themes that are already common in the concerts of maestro Morricone, with new themes from some of his recent films.
The first three songs of the first half of the concert are a tribute to the films of Giuseppe Tornatore, impeccably executed, and there, from the beginning, we notice two things.
On the one hand, we notice the quality of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and its choir, which travels with Ennio Morricone during the European tour; an orchestra that exquisitely interprets the subtle, soft and light passages, and yet applies strength and precision to the massive moments in which all the instruments contribute with their sound.
But on the other hand, and as the most negative point of the whole night, we notice that the acoustics of the venue and the inadequate sound design generates a continuous echo between the sound of the orchestra and sound amplified by the loudspeakers (which is best noticed during solo passages or with few instruments). In addition, we also notice that there is also some saturation on the sound sources, especially when we have the whole orchestra playing.
It’s a pity because if it were not for this bad sound design, which is something I think would be solvable, the concert would have been “outstanding”, having to settle for a “quite good”.
The first part of the concert lasts almost an hour, ending with a block of songs dedicated to Sergio Leone‘s Western movies, where we must highlight the theme The Ecstasy of Gold (from the movie The Good, The Bad and the Ugly), which also turns out to be the ecstasy of the audience, getting a huge applause and a multitudinous ovation, both for the orchestra and the choir, and also for the committed conducting of Ennio Morricone and for the wonderful performance of the soprano Susanna Rigacci.
After a break of 20 minutes, the second part of the concert begins with the soundtrack that has given the Oscar to Ennio Morricone this year, The Hateful Eight, setting again the ambience for the night with the theme “Stage Coach to Red Rock”, with a musical crescendo that also grows expectations.
“Deborah’s Theme”, in a block dedicated to a compilation of three adagios, is one of my favorite themes of all time, and is interpreted with such delicacy and exquisiteness, that it manages to transport me to those complex, but at the same time, nostalgic years narrated in the movie.
This second part of the concert ends with a thematic block dedicated to the movie “The Mission”, the soundtrack that should have been the Oscar winner and wasn’t, in a concert performance where with only three themes, makes us finish the night levitating over our seats and giving a spectacular ovation.
However, the concert does not end here, because despite his advanced age, and despite having exceeded our expectations, Ennio Morricone does not stop and gives us not one or two, but three encores:
Cinema Paradiso: Nuovo cinema Paradiso.
We were missing some music from Cinema Paradiso on the program, and when we heard the first notes of this encore, we felt rewarded and we received it with a big smile.
Ecstasy of Gold (from “The Good the Bad and the Ugly”)
The second encore was the theme that ended the first part of the concert, the energetic and groundbreaking piece ‘Ecstasy of gold’, which again raised the audience from their seats.
Abolisson (from “Queimada”)
And when we thought that everything was over, maestro Morricone came back on stage to give us one last piece, ‘Abolisson’, making the venue shake with the force of the choir.
In summary, a great ending to almost two and a half hours of concert, masterfully conducted by Ennio Morricone and spectacularly performed by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra; a concert that we enjoyed and loved.
It’s a pity that the night was tarnished by the poor sound of the event (saturation when the whole orchestra was playing and echoes in general in the rest of moments).
Article by Gorka Oteiza