To say that composer Ennio Morricone is talented and innovative is something of an understatement and when writing about him it is often difficult to find the words to describe his creativity. By the time Ennio Morricone came to score RIPLEYS GAME in 2002 the Maestro was a seasoned film music composer who had already written hundreds of scores for varying genres of motion pictures. The movie was based on the third book in trilogy of novels entitled RIPLIAD written by Patricia Highsmith. Set in France, Germany and Italy, RIPLEYS GAME is a classy, smooth and sophisticated thriller which focuses upon art connoisseur and harpsichord expert Tom Ripley who also happens to be a master of improvisational homicide and a con artist. Ripley is portrayed convincingly by actor John Malkovich who is supported ably by fellow actors Dougray Scott and Ray Winstone. Ripley, with the help of British gangster Reeves (Winstone) becomes involved in an art scam in Berlin. Reeves is told by Ripley to stay outside whilst he goes into a building to do a deal with a client but things do not go to plan and Ripley resorts to killing this potential customer. He then gives the money that he has got from the now dead customer to Reeves, but at the same time keeps the piece of art work for himself telling Reeves that their partnership is dissolved, which is something that Reeves is not too pleased about. The story then skips three years forward and we see Ripley living a wealthy, privileged lifestyle in Italy living in a luxuriously opulent villa with his beautiful wife Luisa who is a harpsichordist. Ripley and his wife are invited to a party which they are enjoying until Ripley overhears the host Johnathan Trevanny (Scott) making remarks about him and his taste in art and also making references to Ripley’s somewhat shady past, the furious Ripley briefly confronts Trevanny but leaves the party with the matter unresolved. It is at this point the disagreeable Reeves character returns to the storyline asking Ripley for help in dispatching a rival. Ripley recommends that they use an amateur for the hit telling Reeves to offer it to Trevanny, Ripley knowing that Trevanny is suffering from leukaemia and needs money for his wife and family to keep them when he dies. At first Trevanny is surprised and horrified at the offer and turns down Reeves proposal, but then begins to think of the money and agrees to carry out the hit.

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Trevanny assumes that this will be the last time he has to have anything to do with the unsavoury Reeves but the gangster has other ideas and blackmails Trevanny into carrying out another assassination, this time however things do not go to plan and Trevanny looses his composure and is nearly killed himself until Ripley comes to his aid and helps to dispatch three mobsters on a train. Trevanny then forms an uneasy friendship with Ripley and returns to his wife and son telling his wife that the money has come from a hospice where he has undergone experimental treatment. The three murdered mobsters associates decide to pay a visit to Italy and attack Ripleys villa. They kill Reeves and throw his body in the boot of their car. However Ripley has anticipated their moves and has set traps for them and picks all of them off with the help of Trevanny who seems to have gotten a taste for killing. Trevanny returns to his home to find that the mobsters have sent henchmen to kidnap his wife and are holding her captive, but Ripley once again has managed to stay one step ahead of the game and after taking Trevanny home spots the mobsters cars in the undergrowth, he doubles back and in the nick of time manages to kill the henchman. One of the mobsters is only wounded and is about to shoot Ripley when Trevanny throws himself in front of the bullet and is fatally wounded.

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The movie is a captivating one and has an intelligent and consuming storyline, directed by filmmaker and screenwriter Liliana Cavani ( GALILEO,THE YEAR OF THE CANNIBALS, THE NIGHT PORTER, LA PELLE etc) it is a must see motion picture and stands up well to the test of time and one which I believe has matured and grown even more interesting with the passing of the years rivalling many of the more recent thrillers that have been released. The musical score incorporates harpsichord performances at certain points within its duration, the composer utilising the instrument to accompany the films central figure, it is also a score that is filled with drama and tension, the Maestro masterfully building the atmosphere throughout via his use of strings, brass, electric guitar, woodwind, piano, percussive elements and aforementioned harpsichord which are subtly enhanced by a sprinkling of electronic effects that fuse seamlessly with the conventional instruments of the orchestra to create a score that oozes tension and apprehension but also has at its core highly thematic and melodic material. As with any soundtrack penned by Morricone one is aware almost immediately that we are listening to the supremely innovative work of Il Maestro, a Master of his craft. There is that sound, that style and that individuality present that just says Ennio Morricone.

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The score features Morricone’s regular collaborator/performer Gilda Butta on piano and harpsichord, with the composer writing extensively for saxophone and also flicorno performed by Gianni Oddi and Cicci Santucci respectively, both instruments feature throughout the soundtrack and make lasting impressions upon the listener, creating either a mood of melancholy or indeed an apprehensive and threatening atmosphere. One of the highlights of the score is the music for the murders on the train which is split into two cues on the album, PRIMO TRENO AND SECONDO TRENO both cues establish almost straight away an air and atmosphere that is filled with tension and suspense, we hear dissonant brass that is punctuated and paced by an ominous sounding rhythmic background which at times evokes the sound that the composer realised on certain cues within his score for THE UNTOUCHABLES. The opening cue on the compact disc “IN CONCERTO” is actually the last piece of music that we hear in the movie, the harpsichord opens the proceedings and establishes the central melody of the composition, flicorno is added to the mix along with support from the string section which enhances and adds depth and further substance to the piece, the composition builds slowly but steadily as the composer fuses a jazz orientated style with that of baroque. As the piece gathers momentum the composer adds slightly harder sounding and imposing brass and introduces an electric guitar which although subdued adds much to the dramatic content of the movie and creates greater tension within the composition.


With harpsichord all the time being the main stay of the cue forming its foundation and then becoming its core. There are a few pieces within the score that at times sound as if they could be improvised as in COLLAGE DE RIPLEY which has saxophone and flicorno in a duet performance underlined by short and harsh sounding violin strokes which are further supported by submissive percussion. There have been numerous re-issues of scores written by Ennio Morricone in recent years, this I have to say is one of the most welcome and worthwhile.A KRONOS RECORDS release. LTD EDITION.



The story of MICHAEL STROGOFF is a popular one and also is a tale that has been committed to celluloid on more than 30 occasions either as a television project, a silent movie or as a feature film, the first of these was a silent version produced in 1914 and was made in The United States. Based on the novel from 1876 by Jules Verne, it is a tale of high adventure, filled with action, drama and romance. The book when first published was hailed as the best story that Verne had written. The musical score for this particular incarnation of the story (1999) is every bit as adventurous, exciting, fast paced and dramatic as the storyline itself. The soundtrack is filled to overflowing with haunting melodies, fearsome action cues literally is brimming with affecting leitmotifs and thematic properties that accompany the main protagonists as the story unfolds and develops. Monsignor, Scholar and composer Marco Frisina’s score is an epic sounding work, which is grandiose and robust but also has the ability to become intimate and melancholy, it posses a fragility and also a emotive side that is attractive, poignant and powerful. Frisina was Born in Rome in 1954, he studied music at the Conservatory of Saint Cecilia and was ordained as a Priest in 1982.


He has scored numerous TV and feature film productions and written Oratorios, Masses and Hymns for the Vatican, during his career he has collaborated with a number of high profile artists, Ennio Morricone being one of these.
The Maestro provides the production with a lush and imposing score that at certain points within the proceedings evokes the Style and the atmosphere of the vintage movie soundtracks of Hollywood, by this I mean it has real themes and is beautifully crafted and orchestrated.
The opening theme for example is a rousing, strident and proud piece, written for brass and strings that are underlined rumbling percussion which when combined set the scene perfectly for much of what is to follow. Frisina’s theme for the marauding Tartars is also an impressive one and includes driving strings that are embellished by percussive elements and timpani and driven on even harder by the utilisation of wild brass and wistful sounding woodwind that are punctuated and given more vigour and impact by crashing cymbals, the composer creating an urgent and unmerciful sounding piece that seems to be relentless. Then we have the theme for Strogoff’s wife NADIA which is a text book Frisina sounding composition if indeed there is such a thing, a delicate and gorgeously alluring melody is carried by the string section and underlined and enhanced by lilting woodwind and harp, mid way through the piece there is a stunning guitar solo that picks out the core theme and adds a atmosphere of calm before the cue then changes its mood and direction becoming less melodious and adopting a more sinister and slightly threatening persona which is purveyed by sinewy strings and ominous and apprehensive woodwind. Frisina’s soundtrack is somewhat different to what we have become accustomed to from the composer, yes there are a number of striking thematic moments present but it also brings into focus the darker elements and a greater sense of foreboding in places and an there is an underlying ambience that can be likened to certain scores from Eastern Europe by the likes of Kilar for example. The composer utilises the Balalaika at times which reminds one of the sound that is achieved by Maurice Jarre in Dr Zhivago, predictable ? Maybe, but affective, there are so many themes and addictively melodious passages within the work it is hard to take them all in on first hearing the score. The composer makes effective use of a number of solo instruments throughout the work to bring forth a richness and a lavishly emotive sound which invades ones subconscious.


This is demonstrated perfectly in track number 6, CANTO TZIGANO, a mesmerising solo viola is accompanied by woodwind and then gradually given support by the full string section treating us to a stunning and totally absorbing piece. Track number 8 NEL CUORE DI MICHELE is also a standout cue, Frisina again turning to the solo guitar theme which we heard briefly within NADIA,S THEME, this time however it is accompanied by romantically laced strings with the support of subdued percussion.

The music has up until now only been available digitally as a download, this edition released by Kronos records being the first actual compact disc release of the score. So it’s a score that you should really add to your collection. This is an exclusive review and will be released by Kronos records very soon.