I am sad to learn that Ennio Morricone passed away today in Rome. He was 91 years old. During his career as a music composer, he scored the music for an unbelievable over 400 movies.
I’ve been a fan of his music for over 40 years and had the pleasure of introducing many of my friends to his music. People familiar with the tunes of “sphagetti westerns” such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” generally don’t know the name of the composer. Of all the music he wrote, my favorite is the score for the 1986 film “The Mission.” The basic musical theme is outlined in the song “Gabriel’s Oboe.” Listen.
Here’s Yo-Yo Ma on the cello:
Sarah Brightman set her song “Nella Fantasia” to that tune. I believe she got Ennio’s permission to do so after some back and forth. Brightman’s song is magnificent but I like Chloe Agnew’s (of Celtic Woman) rendition of that song more. Listen.
The song is in Italian. The first verse is:
Nella fantasia io vedo un mondo giusto,
Li tutti vivono in pace e in onestà.
Io sogno d’anime che sono sempre libere,
Come le nuvole che volano,
Pien’ d’umanità in fondo all’anima.
Chloe’s angelic voice is pure gold. The way she holds the note at “che vo-ooooooo” is beyond description for me (around the 1.00 minute time stamp.)
I have dozens of Morricone’s songs in my rather impressive (even if I say so myself) collection. The “Gabriel’s Oboe” tune is my favorite because of its haunting tenderness. To me, it evokes feelings of longing and loss. Scores of singers and musicians have produced covers of Morricone’s tunes. Here’s a last one for your enjoyment: John Williams, the guitarist. Even if you have skipped the previous songs, please listen to this one on a good set of headphones with your eyes closed and the phone on mute.
Requiescat in pace dear Ennio. May your music continue to bring joy and solace to the world for years to come. The world is a better place for having had you in it. Thank you and may your god go with you.
Bonus fact: When Morricone began his career as a music composer for movies, he could not afford too many musicians. So he had to improvise with small teams and his music was sparse — whistles and bells and voices and guitars. Full orchestras came later.