I have to begin this review by stating that I am probably not the most receptive person when it comes to movies from this genre in Italian cinema, but we cannot judge the quality of the musical score on the calibre of the film it was written for. We are all aware that there have been some wonderful film scores written that have faded into obscurity simply because the movies they were intended to support have simply been so bad that they have been instantly forgotten. COL FERRO E COL FUOCO (with fire and swords) is set in the seventeenth century during the Ukrainian uprising against Polish conquerors, and is an enjoyable romp which does verge on being epic in its proportions and scenarios, it however does fall slightly short of Hollywood movies that were set in the same period. But saying this it most certainly did not have the same budget or even close to the budget that American producers were allowed to make their movies. The musical side of things however seems to have stood well the test of time and to do this proves that the soundtrack was something that probably outshone the film it was intended to enhance. Written by two musical giants of the Italian film music world Maestro Francesco de Masi and Maestro Giovanni Fusco, De Masi in particular was in later years to become one of the most sought after composers of film music in both Italy and Europe, with the odd excursion into scoring and conducting music for American productions, De Masi is probably best known for his scores for the Italian western genre or the Spaghetti Western, but this composer worked in more or less every genre and created so many wonderful highly thematic soundtracks fusing the style that we associate with the Hollywood establishment i.e. grand sweeping passages and highly dramatic and tense interludes with a style and sound that was all his own, De Masi,s sound I think was unique as he did not rely solely upon the sound or the style that was being adopted and employed by numerous composers that were working in film in Italy during the early 1960,s, instead he actually took that style and amalgamated it with the already established epic formula as adopted by tinsel town thus creating a whole new sound. Fusco too worked steadily within the Italian film music industry and although not so much in demand as De Masi still managed to create some memorable works for Italian productions.
WITH FIRE AND SWORDS was released in 1962, and the soundtrack was sadly never released in any format, thanks to Kronos records we can now savour the delights of the driving and robust score. Written mainly for brass and strings the work contains heroic and highly dramatic themes that are supported and given even more emphasize by rumbling percussive elements, woodwind and crashing cymbals, the score also contains its more intimate and romantic influences and these are richly purveyed by the string section and also plaintively relayed by soothing sounding woodwind and heartrending solo violin. But it is the brass section that has the lions share of the work to do within the score, in many ways the music from WITH FIRE AND SWORDS evoked memories of two scores by composer Dasan Radic, THE LONG SHIPS and also GHENGIS KHAN, there is so much going on brass fanfares, brass stabs, dramatic percussion booming out and rolling along underlining the action, then full on lush and lavish themes of a romantic nature seem to segue into the proceedings seamlessly giving the work depth and also a haunting and lavish musical foundation. Its hard to tell who composed what or who was responsible for what within the score, but styles and sounds that are now synonymous with both De Masi and Fusco can be heard during the soundtracks duration. This is one to look out for, again a wonderful production from Kronos, with interesting and very personal notes by Filippo De Masi and attractive art work. Recommended.