This Time, Morricone Is an Oscar Lock

Composer Ennio Morricone conducts the Sinfonietta Orchestra in Milan, Dec. 16, 2006. i i

Composer Ennio Morricone conducts the Sinfonietta Orchestra in Milan, Dec. 16, 2006. This week the Italian maestro makes his U.S. concert debut. Matteo Bazzi/epa/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Matteo Bazzi/epa/Corbis
Composer Ennio Morricone conducts the Sinfonietta Orchestra in Milan, Dec. 16, 2006.

Composer Ennio Morricone conducts the Sinfonietta Orchestra in Milan, Dec. 16, 2006. This week the Italian maestro makes his U.S. concert debut.

Matteo Bazzi/epa/Corbis

Forty years ago, an Italian composer named Ennio Morricone rode into America with the soundtrack for a Western titled A Fistful of Dollars. Since then, Morricone has composed the music for hundreds of films.

Morricone's music has staying power, and the composer remains busy. He's earned five Oscar nominations over his long career — but never a victory.

This year, Morricone is guaranteed an Oscar: For only the second time in its history, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is giving a lifetime-achievement Oscar to a film-music composer.

The Top 10 Scores of Ennio Morricone

With something like 400 scores to his credit, covering virtually every genre of film, the Ennio Morricone canon is extensive. This is a list of my 10 personal favorites.

Since many of Morricone's older scores have been reissued time and again, I won't list disc labels or numbers. A visit to any good CD shop should turn up what is currently in print.

As a general rule, you should avoid concert samplers. Much of Morricone's best known music fits so carefully to his orchestrations and performers that to hear it played in a different setting, by less than virtuoso players, is like drinking very warm beer.

Oscar Nominated Scores

Morricone's best U.S. scores cover a nice range, from the gently lyric, to action-dramatic to choral/symphonic.

  • Malena
  • The Untouchables
  • The Mission

Spaghetti Westerns

Morricone may have closed the door on writing any more western scores, but these three find him at his best. They are full of unusual instrumentations, winding melodies and often feature the superb solo work of whistler Alessandro Alessandroni and vocalist Edda dell'Orso.

  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • Duck, You Sucker! (aka A Fistful of Dynamite)
  • Once Upon a Time in the West

Other Scores

What a range, from the nostalgic lyricism of Paradisoto the eerie soundscape of The Red Tent. Listen to these scores and you will understand why everyone calls Morricone "maestro."

  • Cinema Paradiso
  • The Thing
  • The Red Tent
  • Once Upon a Time in America

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