'Morricone 60': An Orchestra-Infused Look At A 60-Year Career : Deceptive Cadence Film composer Ennio Morricone, known for his use of harmonica and whistling on Western scores, has re-imagined his most popular sounds with help from the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.
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'Morricone 60': An Orchestra-Infused Look At A 60-Year Career

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'Morricone 60': An Orchestra-Infused Look At A 60-Year Career

'Morricone 60': An Orchestra-Infused Look At A 60-Year Career

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Film composer Ennio Morricone is 88 years old and still going strong. He recently released an album under a new record label. The album's called "Morricone 60" - 60 because that's how many years he's been in the business. Michelle Mercer has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE SONG, "THE MAN WITH THE HARMONICA")

MICHELLE MERCER, BYLINE: With just those few notes from the harmonica, Ennio Morricone can evoke the mythic West. When Morricone first started composing, he couldn't afford a full orchestra. Coming from an experimental background, he wanted to challenge boundaries anyway. So Morricone set his strong melodies to a then-unconventional combination of instruments, harmonica, electric guitar, vocal effects like whistling. Those sounds help make his spaghetti-Western soundtracks some of the most memorable film music around.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE SONG, "THE MAN WITH THE HARMONICA")

MERCER: These days, Morricone can afford an orchestra. And his latest album, "Morricone 60," features a couple dozen of his most famous film themes passionately recorded by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE SONG, "THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY")

MERCER: On some tracks, I miss that original instrumental color. Woodwinds are a bland substitute for whistling here on the theme from "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly," Sergio Leone's 1966 classic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE SONG, "THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY")

MERCER: And spaghetti Westerns are a small fraction of the several hundred film scores Morricone has composed. And there's plenty of his music that comes into its own on the new recording, like "Gabriel's Oboe" from the 1986 film "The Mission."

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE SONG, "GABRIEL'S OBOE")

MERCER: In this scene, an 18th-century missionary priest plays an oboe to charm an Indian tribe in Paraguay. Morricone has said his work is to make explicit what a plot alone cannot explain. And you hear that in this theme. The priest is playing for salvation but also for sheer beauty. The original soundtrack had a harpsichord groundling the oboe. On this recording, its lyricism soars with the support of the orchestra.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE SONG, "GABRIEL'S OBOE")

MERCER: Ennio Morricone is a 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE SONG, "NUOVO CINEMA PARADISO")

SHAPIRO: Michelle Mercer reviewed Ennio Morricone's latest album, "Morricone 60."

(SOUNDBITE OF ENNIO MORRICONE SONG, "NUOVO CINEMA PARADISO")

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