The O2, London
Ennio Morricone played London for the last time this week, his farewell visit to the capital heralding the gifted composer’s imminent retirement.
But what a spectacular farewell. In an evening that largely revisited the programme of his 60 Years in Music concert from early 2016, and again with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, with whom the Maestro recorded his Oscar-winning score for The Hateful Eight, for the best part of three hours, Morricone conducted a heavenly symphony of instrument and voice. Enchantingly sprinkled with l’italianità, the concert was a unique fusion of cinema, music and passion.
And enchantment is no understatement as to witness this musical genius conducting the music that he has created is to see a summoning up of spiritual wonder. With more than 200 souls breathing life into his work within the sold-out O2, the Maestro wielded his baton as a sorcerer might wave a wand, delivering an evening of sheer magic and displaying an energy that belied his advanced years.
Hearing Morricone conduct his work live offered a chance, not just to re-enter the ethereal cocoon of his music, but also to observe some of the finer details woven into his compositions: the harp melody incorporated into The Good, The Bad And The Ugly; the fusion of baroque, tribal and sacred that make up On Earth As It Is In Heaven from (what should have been an Oscar-winning score) The Mission. The detail that underlies his melodies and orchestrations is breathtaking.
The evening’s programming was inspired too, with the staccato Tarantella seamlessly segueing into Susanna Rigacci’s sublime soprano take on ‘Nostromo’. Morricone could almost have written for Rigacci’s voice – her delivery of the vocal line in The Ecstasy Of Gold proving almost literally, an ecstatic, spine-tingling flourish to what is possibly the Maestro’s signature tune. Dulce Pontes offered the second wave of vocal delight – with no number sung more verve-infused than the lesser known, samba-esque ‘Aboliçao’ from the 1969 movie Burn!
The choral background to the evening came from the Crouch End Festival Chorus who, when called upon, were magnificent – with none finer than their own exquisite soprano Rosemary Zolynski who more than deserved her handful of solo moments
Now in his tenth decade, while there may have been an aura of mortality to the occasion, there was not a jot of frailty in Morricone’s presence. We may never witness the Maestro perform live in London again – but he has gifted to the world a musical legacy that will live forever.
My review of Ennio Morricone’s 2016 Concert at the O2