We finish this special coverage with the fifth and final article dedicated to the cultural activities of the Princess of Asturias Awards 2020, where legendary composers Ennio Morricone and John Williams were honored on Thursday, October 15th, with a special concert performed by the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias (OSPA), conducted by Óliver Díaz & Andrea Morricone.
Here you can read the special article written by the composer Pablo Laspra, Director of the “Oviedo FilmMusic Live!” festival, that shares with all of us in a joint collaboration with MundoBSO and SoundTrackFest.
Before going to the summary of the concert, we leave you with the links to the rest of the articles we have published about the concerts in the program, in case you want to take a look.
Princess of Asturias Awards 2020 – Morricone Pop (12 October 2020)
Princess of Asturias Awards 2020 – Williams Club (13 October 2020)
Princess of Asturias Awards 2020 – Chamber Concert – Morricone-Williams (14 October 2020)
As the main event within the week of activities of the Princess of Asturias Awards, obviously, behind the actual delivery of the awards to the winners, we have been able to enjoy the symphonic concert that took place last Thursday, October 15, at 20:00h in the building ‘Cannons’ of the old Fábrica de la Vega de Oviedo (also known as the Weapons Factory).
The Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias (OSPA) under the direction of Óliver Díaz and Andrea Morricone carried out a peculiar program which, although in Morricone‘s part they were alternative pieces not very common in film music concerts, in Williams’ part took a more traditional and obvious program, widely listened to. This decision was not random, since doubts about the final celebration of this massive event made several details change internally, among others the final program, which in the wishes of the organization, would have been more special under normal conditions.
The location of the concert was perhaps not ideal for an event of this magnitude, although it is true that it was equipped with adequate lighting, colorful light games and varied shapes that moved during the concert, and the installation of about 20 heaters around the orchestra area that heated the atmosphere so that the musicians did not have difficulties in playing their instruments. The public area did not have these heaters, although it is true that the temperature was sufficient since it began to rise at noon and remained so until the beginning of the concert.
The chosen building (among all those in the Factory) was the one named “Cannons”, the largest in terms of dimensions in the whole complex, perhaps inheriting its name (we guess) from the specific purpose this hall had when the Factory was in operation. The seats were placed in the front and in the back of the orchestra, in groups of 1 and 2 seats together. Remember that the tickets for this event literally flew in the first 15 minutes of going online for free: the reduction in the usual 30% capacity made this year’s concert, one of the most sought-after among the regular concert attendees.
The entrance of the guests was organized and staggered through the main door of the factory, where after presenting the National ID card, each visitor was linked and assigned a radio frequency proximity tag that they had to wear around their necks at all times, to carry out the relevant traceability in case any case of COVID was detected. Bravo for the organization, for having all these aspects covered and well organized.
After a few minutes in which the measures to be followed in the development of the event were announced over the loudspeakers of the hall, the concert began under the baton of an energetic and impetuous Andrea Morricone, starting with “The strength of the righteous” from “The untouchables of Eliot Ness”: a marked rhythm and great strength, allusive from its title, as if it were a few firm and rhythmic steps; the theme advanced with harshness and impetus, making the whole venue resound. The electric bass (which Maestro Morricone himself brought) and the percussion, were impressive throughout the piece.
By the way, Morricone‘s themes were divided into 4 thematic blocks, grouping the themes according to some common points. This first block was the one corresponding to the life and legend of Ennio Morricone.
Next, and to break the initial hardness, we went on to listen to Deborah’s Theme from “Once upon a time in America“, a subtle, delicate piece and perhaps in a tempo to which we are not accustomed, since the maestro Andrea Morricone seems to like fast tempos even in slower and more intimate pieces. The fact is that the maestro overflowed energy (perhaps in excess) in most of the passages, which although they required a little more subtlety in the execution, were sufficient for the development of his part with an acceptable quality.
The piece in question, accompanied by the plays of light that the organization has prepared specifically to give more atmosphere to the concert, and went up and down in intensity and color throughout the concert, immersed everyone present in a kind of ecstasy of relaxation, at the mercy of these peculiar harmonies so specific to Ennio Morricone and that tell so much: tensions and cadential relaxation, as an example of musical narrative, which provide a quasi-romantic feeling in the purest style of the second movement of Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra. The following themes in this block (“Poverty” and the “Main Theme” from the same film) suffered the same fate, which contributed to give some nostalgic color at the beginning of the concert.
We changed blocks in Morricone‘s program to what the organization (or perhaps his son) called “Scattered Sheets”. The piece “Metti, una sera a cena” was already a favorite of the orchestra’s percussionists (and mine) in this week’s rehearsals: a dreamy bossa-nova rhythm in a loop, with a clear harmony and the incursion of the mythical seventies sound of the vibraphone, delighted all lovers of the genre. With an ‘in crescendo‘ developed for almost 5 minutes, and with some riffs and drum breaks, it helped the audience to get out of the lethargy that the nostalgic songs of the previous block had produced.
With the love theme of “Cinema Paradiso” (that beautiful piece composed by Andrea Morricone and often mistakenly attributed to his father), interpreted also in a tempo perhaps excessive for a platonic love (and more worthy of a passionate summer love) was closed this block, in which the orchestra shone in its neat and methodical interpretation.
The next work, within the new block dedicated to tragic cinema, was the well-known “Gabriel’s Oboe” from the film “The Mission”. There is little to say about this theme: with a beautiful, intimate, endearing melody… Great theme in short dedicated to the Society of Jesus, with whom the master had a good relationship during his whole life, and it is that within this melody there is a much deeper meaning for all Jesuits in the world.
The last block on Morricone was, of course, dedicated to his Western films (in particular those directed by Sergio Leone). The voice chosen to interpret her evocative female solos was the soprano Vittoriana de Amicis (chosen expressly by the maestro, coming from Italy with him). In “C’era una volta il west” Vittoriana‘s voice was clear, beautifully colored, with a right and not exaggerated vibrato, and a projection that denoted her obvious origin from the lyric field; although her voice was amplified, in the rehearsals she was able to pass over the orchestra without difficulty due to her elaborate technique. Bravo for her performance in this concert.
The next piece “Sean, Sean” from the movie “Duck You Sucker!” was a short break for everyone, in which the repeated choruses shouting the title were digitally launched with some pre-recorded voices, as there was no chorus. It was a real pity not to have included the choir in the program of the concert, but it was obvious that the difficulties of including the Princess of Asturias Foundation Choir (with more than 80 voices) would have made the event too expensive and difficult (the spaces were just enough for the orchestra and the audience, and probably the whole stands that held more people behind the orchestra would have had to be eliminated).
And as a final topping for Morricone we find one of my favorite pieces of the composer, and that had already been played in the first concert of this cultural week (Morricone Pop – read more): “The Ecstasy of Gold” from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. Once again this orchestral version has surprised us with its explosion of strength, musical impetus, and power with an orchestral tutti in all its glory, soprano included, which drew a standing ovation from the audience. A masterful way of finishing the part dedicated to Morricone, since with this triumphant theme the spirits were very high for what was to come.
Skipping the scheduled 5-minute break, because the timing of the concert was a little behind, Maestro Óliver Díaz took over the reins of OSPA to begin the part dedicated to Maestro John Williams.
The ways of conducting the orchestra are completely different, and Óliver (lead conductor from Oviedo FilmMusic Live!) achieved the same power and dynamism of the orchestra with much subtler and measured gestures, but energetic in his performance as well.
Opening with an impressive “End Credits” from “Star Wars IV” in the specific version of the Star Wars suite that the orchestra had already performed in 2014 at the Niemeyer Auditorium in Avilés, the atmosphere of the adapted concert hall changed completely: a large part of the audience seemed to come to listen to this composer exclusively, as cheers and bravos sounded everywhere in this part. The truth is that John Williams is also better known by the younger audience than Morricone, since in most cases when this young audience listens to songs by Ennio Morricone that they only recognize them for being in Tarantino movies, and not for their original versions.
The main theme of “Jaws” overwhelmed all the audience because of its impeccable execution: Díaz had taken into account the sonority of this room to the maximum, with too much reverberation because of its distribution and structure, and he knew how to articulate the orchestra to give the best of itself. The end of the song with a maximized “molto rallentando” left the sound in the air for more than 7 seconds, which overwhelmed everyone in this impressive piece.
In both “Schindler’s List” and “Fiddler on the Roof” it was necessary to include a solo violin to perform the pieces. The chosen musician was Jesús Reina, a virtuoso of the instrument, and who has played in the best halls under the most renowned conductors of the present time. His interpretation of both themes was impeccable, despite the narrative difficulty of them. His roots in folk music (he began by performing classical themes from his homeland, and was under the tutelage and musical supervision of a gypsy professor for several years) helped in the interpretation, which needed to be heartbreaking and intense in the first of the themes, and jovial and mocking in the second. Bravo for his performance.
The two remaining pieces (Harry Potter and Indiana Jones) were executed without problems by the orchestra, although they are easily recognizable themes that are played in almost all standard film music concerts about the figure of Williams. Therefore, they were a “must be” that all attendees expected.
To end the event, and more like a small final encore, the “Imperial March” from “Star Wars V” was performed: imposing, well attacked, and executed, and with a martial interpretation worthy of the best of the auditoriums. The perfect finale for a different musical evening.
The applauses thanked both directors for their participation, as well as the soprano, and violin soloist. It is true that in comparison with other past concerts of the Princess of Asturias Foundation held in the auditorium “Príncipe Felipe” in Oviedo, the duration of the applause was shorter, but it was clearly due to the circumstance of facilitating and speeding up the exit of the public in an orderly and staggered way, and because the whole audience was quite distant.
Some doubts arose about the suitability of the location of this concert, as well as about the live broadcast of it through a streaming platform. Many people demanded viewing it, even if it was online, as this is considered a milestone in the history of film music, having two legends receiving an award in this category.
Circumstances were not favorable because of the location (avoiding the problems related to video broadcast permits for this type of piece, where the permit for concert performance is one thing, and for live broadcast and recording is another). And doubts have also arisen about the location of the concert: temperature, sound, the quantity of audience, and distribution… It was perhaps a complicated bet since there were many things against it, but thanks to the measures taken by the organization it has come through with more than acceptable quality. Perhaps it would have been more compact and more controlled in the auditorium, but when you bet on something new you take risks, and we believe that they have been more than overcome.
Although the week of the Princess of Asturias Awards has already concluded, perhaps this award will mean putting a new focus on audiovisual music in our country in an objective way, highlighting and emphasizing again the good work done by the developers of cultural events related to film music: The International Film Music Festival of Úbeda (later reconverted in Córdoba, and readapted to the successful MOSMA), the International Film Music Festival of Tenerife – FIMUCITE, or from our modest position, the Oviedo FilmMusic Live!, have been examples that film music moves mountains, moves audiences, and moves passions… I hope that for many more years, events like these will continue to be programmed, and that they will be complemented with other options that enrich the musical culture of our country. Long live film music!
Article by Pablo Laspra
Pictures by Pablo Laspra & Mónica Payer