Italian composer Roberto Nicolosi was born In Genoa Italy on November 16th, 1914. He initially was destined to be a dentist and graduated from University with a degree in medicine. But, he was also attracted to music and showed a definite talent for jazz, so whilst studying medical things Nicolosi also undertook a course on music composition at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of music in Milan from which he gained a diploma. Nicolosi, decided to enter the dentistry profession but after a few years he began to perform jazz music and during the 1940’s he became a popular performer at first performing on piano and then conducting and arranging for radio and recordings by other artists. The musician was very talented and was able to play, Trumpet, Vibraphone, Double Bass and Violin. During the mid to late 1940.s he re-located to Rome where he worked in nightclubs and the theatre as well as becoming a music critic. The composers break into writing for cinema came in 1954, when he scored a documentary entitled THE SIXTH CONTINENT which was directed by Folco Quilici. It was during this period of his career that Nicolosi moved into scoring Epic movies that were produced in Italy, SWORD AND SANDAL films as they became known or were also gathered together under the PEPLUM genre category.
The composer excelled when writing for these movies which was somewhat surprising considering his jazz musical roots and interests. Nicolosi’s grand and symphonic style adding much in the way of atmosphere and mood to the movies that he worked on. His musical style could I suppose be likened to that of other Italian composers such as Carlo Rustichelli, Angelo Francesco Lavagnino and Carlo Savina who were also very active within the genre of the Peplum. Nicolosi utilising strong and vibrant string led themes and underlining or punctuating these with brass flourishes, percussive elements and at times jarring musical stabs to heighten the drama alongside romantic and lush sounding leitmotifs. Nicolosi would also experiment with electronic sounds within his scores as in ROME AGAINST ROME which although predominantly symphonic contained passages and sounds that were synthetic.
The composer also scored a handful of movies directed by famed Italian Filmmaker, Mario Bava. BLACK SABBATH, ERIK THE CONQUERER, THE EVIL EYE, MASK OF THE DEMON (aka-BLACK SUNDAY) amongst them, many of Nicolosi’s scores for Italian productions would be replaced by the American distributor AIP, their almost resident composer at the time Les Baxter often re-scoring these.
Baxter said once in interview to David Kraft and Ronald Bohn © 1981.
“The feeling of James Nicholson was that the Italian scores were dreadful. The ones that I heard were quite terrible and the ones I rescored almost unacceptable, both from a fidelity standpoint and a picture standpoint. I don’t know how much improvement I made because I had such small orchestras, but at least we improved the fidelity”. This is probably something that aficionados of Italian cinema would disagree with strongly, but to each his own as they say as there was also an Italian composer named Italo Fischetti (1911-1989), who made a good living out of re-scoring American B movies for Italian cinema release, maybe some being originally scored by Les Baxter? Nicolosi, was a much in demand composer and between 1954 and 1989 he scored in access of thirty feature films and at least ten documentaries.
At times many collectors confused the composer with fellow Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai thinking that Nicolosi was an alias for Nicolai, of course this was not the case. Roberto Nicolosi passed away on, April fourth, 1989, but his music continued to be utilised on movies after his death.