Thanks to NPR's "Deceptive Cadence" blog, I am reminded that the great Morricone will quite possibly be remembered as a legendary figure not just for his extraordinary music, but for his extraordinary longevity.
From their recent review of Morricone 60 (a new CD featuring orchestral versions of many of his most famous works), a great point about Morricone's ability to transcend the medium. (And also, a great point about the fact that his extremely experimental sound -- often necessitated by budgetary limitations -- doesn't always translate to a "traditional" orchestra.)
Morricone is that rare film composer whose music has been used in the foreground, as central to the frame as an actor's face. His soundtracks have had a rich and enduring life beyond the screen. Morricone 60 shows us that some of the composer's musical imagination is too colorful for a standard orchestra, but it also gives us some of his work in full expression, the way it was always meant to be heard.
Much of the album is available via YouTube's "official" Ennio Morricone - Topic, so I've taken the liberty of compiling a playlist. And I think the strengths and weaknesses of the "traditionally orchestrated" versions really underscore the fact that great artists often work as well (or better) with limitations as they do if they are unimpeded.
The Czech National Symphony Orchestra's version of "On Earth As It Is In Heaven," for example, lacks the vibrancy of The Mission's original. Somehow, the added layer of polish obscures the wonderful roughness and ethnicity of the film's soundtrack. (And don't even get me started on the reworked "Ecstasy of Gold," which takes one of the most iconic cuts ever and makes it ...slightly less iconic. (Still great, though, to be fair. Just not as weird.)