Saturday Night at the Movies: Saturday 6 July 2013

Howard Goodall kicks off a new mini-series of Great Living Film Composers with the Italian maestro, Ennio Morricone.

Tonight, Howard Goodall begins a new Saturday Night at the Movies mini-series focusing on the Great Living Film Composers. 

This week, he showcases the greatest works by the Italian maestro of movie music, Ennio Morricone.  

Born in Rome in 1928, Morricone is most famous for his soundtrack to The Mission and his ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. 

When he first started out, his aim was to write primarily for the concert hall. He studied under the Italian modernist composer Goffredo Petrassi who was a big influence on the young Ennio, as were such greats as Frescobaldi, Monteverdi, Palestrina and Bach. 

Beginning a career in composition with a young family to provide for, Morricone went into arranging music for radio and television. In 1964, his collaboration with director Sergio Leone began with A Fistful of Dollars. From then until Once Upon a Time in America, 20 years later, they had one of cinema's most successful partnerships. Morricone's unusual use of instruments - including electric guitar, harmonica, jew's harp - and wordless female vocals blended with lush orchestrations, revolutionised the world of film music.

'I was never influenced by other film composers,' Morricone has said. 'I simply developed my own ideas. And I never followed any fashion. I always think that when something is currently very trendy, it's already very old.'

For Morricone, the challenge is always to find a musical language that best serves the film. 'Film music is always at the service of another piece of work. It's complementary, but secondary,' the composer said. The key to a successful soundtrack, he believes, is to create the illusion that the music comes from a particular period the film is set in, without resorting to pastiche. 'I don't write historical music,' Morricone told Classic FM in 2007. 'You have to keep your own style. It doesn't mean that you have to completely re-invent music but you need to start from the period you're living in.'

Morricone has received five Academy Award nominations - for Days of Heaven, The Mission, The Untouchables, Bugsy and Malèna. He was finally presented with an honorary Oscar in 2007 for 'his magnificent and multi-faceted contributions to the art of of film music'.

Tonight, Howard will feature a selection of Morricone's scores including highlights from his live Arena Concerto concert in 2004, as well as the scores for Once Upon a Time in America, Casualties of War and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.