THE BOY AND THE LION.(PRE RELEASE REVIEW).

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Another release in the ever expanding catalogue of the renowned record label KRONOS, is THE BOY AND THE LION a television mini series that was released in 2013 but although it is a relatively recent release there is very little information about the production. The score by composer Stelvio Cipriani has been available as a download for a while but at last Godwin Borg has given it a compact disc release which is most welcome. The score is in many ways similar in style to the sound achieved by French composers Francis Lai, Michel Magne and to a degree Francois de Roubauix and has hints of Michel Legrand. To say that Stelvio Cipriani belongs to the higher archy of the iconic school of Italian film music composers is certainly and understatement. His music has enthralled, delighted and also intrigued many collectors and fellow composers of music for television and film. It is at times quite mind numbing to think that this film music Maestro has written the scores to over 200 movies and his music has not only supported but ingratiated all of these giving them a greater impact and a heightened dramatic elevation. He is a composer that began scoring pictures in the early 1960, s in his native Italy and like so many other composers who were working in film at that time began with a Spaghetti western soundtrack entitled THE BOUNTY KILLER. During this period when the Italian western was beginning to gain momentum and attract attention from audiences and critics alike it was quite easy to label Cipriani as a composer that was like others at this time mimicking the style and sound that had been created and achieved by Maestro Ennio Morricone, but this would be unfair as there is far more to Cipriani’s music than just the quirky sounds and instrumentation that is associated with the genre of the Italian produced western. He has during his career created highly volatile themes for war movies, lilting and affecting tone poems for romantic films and also turned his hand to scoring some of Cinecitta’s most notoriously scary and gruesome horror pictures as well as providing the musical accompaniment to the aforementioned western genre and fashioning atmospheric scores for numerous Giallo films, soft porn escapades, comedic adventures and police capers. So he is a composer that is well suited to the terminology of being CHAMELEON like as he can easily adapt his style and sound to each and every project he is involved with. In recent years the composer has become increasingly involved in the writing of religious music for the Vatican but has never turned his back on film scoring or indeed his love of jazz and the piano. THE BOY AND THE LION is a movie that in many ways is obscure to a great many collectors and cinema goers and I have to admit that it is a score that I was unaware of as being within Cipriani’s filmography, indeed it is not listed within his list of credits, or if it is it is listed under another title that is totally different from this one.

The soundtrack is a pleasant enough work, the composer relying predominantly upon a central theme on which he builds the remainder of his score. In fact, the majority of the music for the movie is variations upon the core theme, the composer arranging and orchestrating the main thematic property and repeating it in various guises throughout. However, the composer does this in such a way that it remains fresh and entertaining upon each outing.
The style that Cipriani employs here is one of a light and melodic fashion which utilises Piano, harpsichord and strings which become the mainstay of the work with synthesiser acting as support, the composer treats us to a romantic and rich sounding theme with piano taking the lead in many instances, and later embellishes the instrument with the use of a light and meandering harpsichord that is supported and further enhanced by subtle strings the composer at times adding an emotive sounding electronic background which seems to give the conventional instrumentation more power and grace. The central theme contains fragments of music that evoke the composers wonderfully romantic ANONYMOUS VENETIAN theme and also there are shades of his PIRAHNA 2 score which occasionally make an appearance, it is not only an effective work but has the ability to linger within ones sub-conscious long after one has finished playing it. The score also contains a number of synthetic attributes which complement and fuse seamlessly with the symphonic instrumentation and at times take the lead in certain areas of the work, but more often than not the composer binds the two mediums together to create a rewarding and pleasant listening experience.
When listening to THE BOY AND THE LION one cannot help but be reminded of the composers past triumphs and draw comparisons with his other cinematic soundtracks. Percussive elements are present throughout creating a subtle but noticeable pulsating background which acts as a foundation to the central musical content and also purveys an African sounding beat giving the work more ethnic textures and colours. Also present are a handful of cues that contain a style that is apprehensive and dramatic FEAR IN THE JUNGLE, HIDING IN THE JUNGLE and THREAT IN THE JUNGLE rely upon the use of electronic sounds and synthetically generated rhythms to create a sense of danger, fear and foreboding. Although this is a score that is not one of the composer’s high profile credits it is one that will delight followers of Cipriani and maybe attract attention from others. I do hope that Kronos Records will continue to release more of his work in the future.
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GERNIKA.

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In 1936, the people of Spain democratically elected a socialist government who at times were referred to as republicans, it was not that long however before unrest began to rise within the country and a coup was carried out by a group of right-wing nationalist generals who were intent on ousting their leader and create their own government. This was not an overnight attempt at gaining power and turned into a long, cruel and particularly bloody civil war that lasted for several years. Soon the Russians started to assist the government of the country and both Italy and Germany decided to combine their efforts as the Axis Powers and started to send arms and support to the forces that were fighting on the side of General Franco, who’s nationalist forces eventually gained the upper hand and ultimately won the war, if anyone wins in these type of conflicts. The town of GUERNICA or GERNIKA as it is called in the movie and also gives the film its title as well, was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe and was made notoriously famous by Pablo Picasso’s gigantic mural which was also named after the town. The movie opens with American news reporter Henry portrayed by James D’Arcy finding it increasingly difficult to report back accurately the events that are taking place in the country because of heavy censorship by the Republican authorities. His reports are altered and tampered with making them no more than propaganda essays in favour of the republicans. The reporter becomes caught up in a web of deceit that begins to affect not only him but his partner Teresa played by Maria Valverde who is one of the censors. Just as the authorities are about to close in on him the air raids on GERNIKA begin. This is a rather tragic and bitter sweet storyline that although does have some romantic interludes is essentially an accurate telling of the events that led up to the barbaric and incessant bombing and also depicts the actual relentless blitz upon the town and the affect upon its helpless inhabitants. The movie is a moving and well-made account of this particular event in history and is surprisingly impartial not once depicting either side as being good or bad. The musical score as one can imagine is powerful to say the least and filled with drama, tension and action material, it also however possesses a number of highly emotive and passionate sounding compositions that further elevate the action on screen lending their poignancy and potent weight to the proceedings. Fernando Velazquez has over a fairly short period of time become one of Spain’s most respected and sought after composers of film music, he works not only in his native Spain but also scores movies that are produced in Hollywood etc.

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His scores for movies such as THE ORPHAN, THE LAST DAYS, DEVIL, CRIMSON PEAK, HERCULES, MAMA and even the horror spoof PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES were met with much enthusiasm and praise from collectors of film music and critics alike the latter I think was a case of the score being far superior to the movie it was created for. It is probably true to say that it was his score for THE IMPOSSIBLE which drew attention to his ample talents as a composer of music for film and television projects. GERNIKA is in my opinion one of his best soundtracks, filled with inspiring themes and memorable compositions it is a score that seems to get under one’s skin as it were, there is just something about this work that oozes class and radiates an aura that is overflowing with highly charged and commanding musical passages. The CD opens with TERESA/PRESS OFFICE a meandering piano acts as a background to strings and woodwind that pick out a pleasant and melancholy theme that is romantically laced but at the same time seems to hint at tension or apprehension.

 

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Track number 2, I ‘VE SEEN WAR, is too a low key affair, with dark sounding strings opening the cue, these soon segue into lighter but still sombre strings that are underlined by woods. The composer also puts to good use brass and choir within the score which create a sense of unease and turmoil within certain cues, as in BACK FROM THE FRONT/THE PICTURE which is track number 4, this is initially a low key piece which develops and builds into a driving action composition which is dominated by horns and strings that are punctuated and supported by percussion. Highlights for me if indeed there are any stand out cues, simply because the entire score is a delight, include, the tender and haunting TERESA’S FAMILY FARMHOUSE, the lavish and lush sounding RECEPTION AT CITY HALL. The powerhouse of a piece that is STALIN DOESN’T FORGIVE MIIAVICH/ALLES GUT SEIN and GENIKA UNDER BOMBS which is not as one would think dismal or sombre but uplifting with the composer employing rich strings, driving brass and proud and patriotic sounding choir which also purveys an atmosphere of hope in a time of chaos and death. I highly recommend you at least take a listen to the samples of this score that are available, I guarantee after you do so you will be ordering it or downloading it.