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For cinephiles and soundtrack collectors everywhere, Morricone Conducts Morricone is a DVD to cherish for a lifetime. Recorded in Munich, Germany on October 20, 2004, this no-frills 100-minute concert performance offers no bonus features, and none are necessary; an interview with Morricone would've been welcome, but the concert itself is a priceless treasure, honoring Ennio Morricone's staggering film-music legacy (over 400 scores as of 2006) with a well-chosen program of highlights conducted by the composer himself. With minimal fanfare, Morricone ascends the podium, peering over his glasses with the intense expression of a vigilant professore, and the Berlin Rundfunk Orchestra launches into the main theme from The Untouchables, beginning the "Life and Legend" portion of the program, which also includes the lush, romantic "Deborah's Theme" from Once Upon a Time in America, and similarly evocative excerpts from the scores of The Legend of 1900 and Cinema Paradiso (the latter being the first of several selections discreetly accompanied by film clips). The second section, "Single Pages," showcases excerpts of early Morricone scores from lesser-known films like Love Circle, Maddalena, and H2S (the latter an obscure 1968 film that fell victim to censorship). The third section is devoted to Morrione's classic music for the films of Sergio Leone, including themes that made Morricone a film-music superstar: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and A Fistful of Dynamite, with soprano soloist Susanna Rigacci doing an impressive job of re-creating (in a slightly lower register) the original soundtrack performance of Edda Dell'Orso on West.
The fourth section, "Socially Committed Cinema," highlights Morricone's work on serious issue-related dramas including Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and Casualties of War, while the fifth and final section, "Tragic, Lyrical, Epic," concludes with the unforgettable "Gabriel's Oboe" theme from Morricone's beloved score for Roland Joffé's 1986 drama The Mission. As directed by Morricone's son Giovanni, Morricone Conducts Morricone is flawlessly recorded (in PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, or DTS 5.1) and visually unobtrusive, with multiple fixed cameras and efficient, no-nonsense editing providing well-executed coverage of full sections and soloists including prominent performances by pianist Gilda Buttà, Ulrich Herkenhoff (assuming the panpipe duties originated by the great Georges Zamfir on Once Upon a Time in America) and solo violinist Henry Raudales. And while some may lament the absence of such Morricone favorites as "Man With a Harmonica" from Once Upon a Time in the West, these 21 selections offer ample compensation, demonstrating Morricone's prolific versatility while emphasizing the string and woodwind arrangements that have made Morricone a household name in Italy and around the world. In the accompanying booklet, a mini-essay by concert organizer Matthias Keller describes Morricone as "The Picasso of Film Music," honoring the maestro as a bold experimenter whose work reflects an innovative willingness to combine seemingly incompatible musical idioms into themes that are uniquely and characteristically his own. It's an apt description, evident in full blossom on this remarkable, must-own DVD. --Jeff Shannon