Ask almost anybody what famous Morricone score that they’re most familiar with and you’ll likely get a blank stare. But whistle the tune from Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Clint Eastwood) and almost everyone will instantly recognize the melody. Morricone has scored some of the more intriguing films in our times with music created for The Mission (De Niro, Irons); the epic Once Upon a Time in America; a healthy selection of scores for dynamic director Guiseppe Tornatore, which includes the breathtaking Cinema Paradiso, as well as Malena (Monica Belluci), the spectacular but fatalistic The Legend of 1900, and A Pure Formality; and several Brian De Palma films that include Casualties of War and The Untouchables. Ennio Morricone’s music is simultaneously beautiful, heartbreaking, and memorable with some of his pieces quite haunting.
Enter Yo-Yo Ma, the world’s most renowned cellist, who has won several shelves of Grammy Awards for his music, attended the most celebrated school of music, Julliard, and eventually graduating from Harvard. Yo-Yo Ma’s ability to draw the most exquisite sounds from his cello is, at the moment, an unmatched one. Having recorded 50+ albums, Yo-Yo Ma, with his signature string vibrato is easily the busiest of cellists in this time.
Earlier, Sony Classical released an Ennio Morricone produced album that brought Yo-Yo Ma to sit at the pages of Morricone’s compositions and revisit the grandeur of the film pieces. With themes and other parts strung together into Suites, Yo-Yo Ma’s versions of masterful selections are engagingly surreal and heartrending.
It stands to reason that Sony Classical should offer this unique collection of collaborative efforts as a sound scrubbed SACD issue. Presented in both Super Audio Stereo and Super Audio Surround with a player-friendly CD Audio layer, this SACD of Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone is spectacular. The surround format creates ambience for the back channels leaving the bulk of this music to translate from the front 3 (L, R, Centre). It’s immersive and immensely enjoyable as you allow the music to wash over you in full distribution. But like all stereo purists, I preferred the Stereo version with its ‘essence of sound’ quality coming back at you from the pair of speakers that you have strategically placed for maximum effect.
Morricone’s most tragic and haunting work is Cinema Paradiso (“Nostalgia,” and “Looking For You”), with its crying string vibrato working into the depths of understanding hearts, is reflected here by Yo-Yo Ma’s characteristic vibrato, replicating the tug and pull of that work’s classic effect. Extending into more of the best of Morricone, Yo-Yo Ma reveals why he is the best translator of Morricone’s haunting melodies. It goes without saying that the impressive talents of Yo-Yo Ma and the scores of Morricone, entwine in this SACD enhancement of a stunning blend of notes and instruments, making the purchase of this disc a necessity.