Morricone Dirige Morricone
Also referred to as "The Munich Concert 2004," this performance video features Ennio Morricone conducting the Muncher Rundfunkorchester, who throw themselves into the nearly two-dozen film-spawned pieces of music featured with full abandon.
In that sense, they get this music right in a way that most major orchestras don't -- they play it hard and furious, starting with the music from The Untouchables, getting thoroughly into the spirit of the music.
Morricone evidently knows how to get the best out of any players he works with, and with a minimum of flashiness at the podium -- he lets the music put on the show, and he just tends to it; as a figure at the podium, he reminds this reviewer a bit of Vittorio Gui, one of the great opera conductors of the early/middle Twentieth Century, who was so low-keyed in his presentations that his performances were almost overlooked despite their excellence (and would have left him forgotten today, but for some recordings that were impossible to forget).
The scores represented here include not just Morricone's most well-known film projects, but also such relative obscurities out of the distant past as H2S (1968), The Sicilian Clan (1969), and Maddelena (1971) -- Gilda Butta's sensitive and elegant pianism adds immeasurably to the quality of the performance in these pieces, and her instrument is a treat to hear on those lesser-known works, lending them new and fresh appeal with this airing.
But most people will be buying this DVD for the major scores captured here: "Once Upon A Time In America", "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" (which, like "Cinema Paradiso" and "The Desert Of The Tartars", is supported by clips from the movie in question), and "The Mission".
The visuals are lively and the editing smooth and skillful enough to make this consistently rewarding to watch -- between the crisp images (letterboxed at about 1.85-to-1) and the close, vivid digital audio, it's overall an exciting video to watch more than once, which is essential to any non-operatic performance DVD.
And the inclusion -- complete with soprano Susanna Rigacci and a full choir -- of the music from A Fistful of Dynamite is proof of the care that went into virtually every aspect of the programming; this reviewer bought it on that basis alone, and the fact that A Fistful of Dynamite is used to bridge "Ecstacy of Gold" from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (with Rigacci in a glorious performance of the vocal part from the latter) is icing on an already very large and enjoyable musical cake.
It's a five-star release all the way, and is so sharp and crisp that one longs to see it on a widescreen monitor to match the spaciousness of the Dolby digital audio.