Marcello Giombini was born in Rome Italy on July 24th 1928, from a very early age Giombini would practice playing organ in a number of the churches in the Italian capital. Whilst he was gaining experience at becoming proficient in playing the organ he also began to study musicology and philology and would research both of the subjects within the vast libraries that were available in Rome. Giombini is predominantly known for his compositions for the world of film, but the composer also wrote numerous pieces for concert hall performance which he became in demand for during the 1950,s and 1960,s when a number of his compositions were performed by the RAI orchestras and these performances were broadcast on both television and radio, the performances for radio were all live. He began to write for the cinema in the early part of the 1960,s his first film score is recorded as VULCANO-FILGIO DI GIOVE in 1961 which was directed by Emimmo Salvi, he continued to write quite prolifically for the cinema through to the 1980,s his last film score being in 1984 for LE SCHIAVE DI CALIGOLA which was directed by Lorenzo Onorati.
Giombini made some important contributions to the genre of the Italian or Spaghetti western, SABATA, RETURN OF SABABTA, GARRINGO,(aka Sabata the killer) ACQUASANTA JOE, BALLATA PER UN PISTOLERO among them, Giombini also provided a fully electronic score for IL MIO NOME E SCOPONE E FACCIO SEMPRE CAPPOTTO IN 1972 FOR DIRECTOR Juan Bosch, which was last Italian produced western to star Anthony Steffen. The Maestro contributed strong soundtracks for many varying genres and was able to adapt to each and every scenario. The composer also acted as director of THE CHORUS OF THE ROMAN PHILHARMONIC ACADEMY with whom he recorded a disc of renaissance music, this included an edition of the story of music which was commissioned by RCA under the direction of Cesare Valabrega. The maestro was also responsible for researching the edition of the resurrection of the body of The Knights of Emilia. In Giombini’s opinion the turning point in his career came with the composition of THE MASS OF THE YOUNG FOR SHOUTING, GUITARS, KEYBOARD AND PERCUSSION, which received its premiere performance in the oratory of San Black Filippo on April 25th 1966.
In recent years the composer dedicated himself to the composition of sacred music, and in 2002 recorded a number of Psalms taking his inspiration from the contemporary musical palette and combined a new age style of music with Biblical texts. The composer was also a pioneer in the field of electronic music and worked on a number of science fiction movies adding his own particular innovative style of electronic pop to the proceedings; he wrote film music under the alias of Pluto Kennedy and also at times went under the assumed name of Marcus Griffin. After the 1980,s Giombini seemed to become something of a recluse and would not discuss his music for film at all.
He composed the music for well over 80 motion pictures and it is sad that many of these shining examples of Italian film music still remain unpublished. He died in Assisi on December 12th 2003.
These were the original notes for Hillside CD productions release of SABATA AND THE RETURN OF SABABTA from June 2001, the notes that appeared in the CD release, were EDITED badly….in Italy, so they did not read well, I hope this original version makes better reading.
SABATA /RETURN OF SABATA. GDM 2024.
Released in 1969 SABATA was the first in a trilogy of sagebrush sagas that were directed by Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Parolini under the alias of Frank Kramer. The movie enjoyed moderated success at the box office both in Italy and outside of its country of origin. Although the movie did not see the light of day until 1971 in the United Kingdom and arguably not in the same league as Sergio Leone’s DOLLAR TRILOGY or even achieving the popularity of the western movies of Corbucci and Sollima, it still nevertheless was an original and entertaining entry to the then growing catalogue of Italian or Spaghetti westerns. Photographed cleverly by Alessandro Mancori and with a hectic, diverse and at times chaotic storyline the movie took us on a veritable rollercoaster ride that involved ingeniously devised bank robberies, frantic chases, double dealing antics between the main protagonists and their allies, plus plots and counterplots that are laced with numerous gunfights and smartly staged showdowns. SABATA and its subsequent sequels managed to capture the attention of cinema goers during the early 1970’s when Spaghetti Western fever was running high, SABATA in-particular was filled with gimmicky little quirks that made the storyline highly implausible but at the same time were massively entertaining.
The film also contained many of the trademarks that we now so readily associate with the genre of the Italian western and also created a few that were to imitated by many other directors who were involved in the making of westerns at Cinecitta. The musical score for SABABTA was the work of Italian Maestro, Marcello Giombini, the composer who was at the time of the films release comparatively unknown outside of his native Italy, provided the movie with a score that was in effect a collection of themes which were written for the central characters of the story. The themes were heard throughout the film either as a character was about to enter the screen or was the centre of attraction on the screen. The composer utilised these musical motifs in a highly original and effective fashion and arranged and orchestrated them in varying ways throughout the proceedings to keep them fresh and vibrant. Because of the composers approach to scoring SABATA it was at times possible not to have to look at the movie to see which of the main characters was on screen as Giombini’s excellent and infectious music would tell you this.
The villain of the piece,(if there are villains and heroes in Italian westerns) Stengal is portrayed convincingly by actor Franco Ressel is often accompanied by a slow and powerful composition that has a slow and deliberate sounding tempo, the trumpet led piece is supported throughout by dramatic and swirling strings that are underlined by percussion. The cue NEL COVO DEL STENGAL is the most prominent use of the composition or at least it is the cue where the composer gives the theme its most fluent and expressive rendition and is heard when SABATA (Lee Van Cleef) and the villain meet for the first time in Stengal’s dining hall. The film itself also integrated the use of musical instruments into the storyline, one of the central characters BANJO (William Berger) is certainly very musical as he is seen performing on a banjo as he walks down the towns main street to face his opponents in a gunfight, as he approaches he plays a jaunty little tune before dropping to the ground to despatch his enemies with a sawn off rifle that is hidden inside the instrument. Then in a different scene he is perfectly at home and proficient playing a church organ. Giombini’s music played an important role as it was not simply a background to the action; it was part of the action and a vital component to the films storyline assisting in its flow and construction. The composer and director were said to have had lengthy discussions about the role of music in the film, these obviously paid off because the score worked wonderfully within the film and also as part of the film and can possibly be compared with Leone and Morricone’s collaboration on the Dollar movies when it comes to the integration of music and the use of musical instruments within a storyline. As in the chiming watch in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and the harmonica in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, the instruments being used in the same way. Banjo for instance wears bells on his trousers which can be heard as he walks, Giombini made use of almost sleigh like bells in the full working of Banjo’s theme which were highly effective. The central theme for the score, which I suppose we can refer to as SABATA’S theme accompanies the films main character, this particular theme is the most prominent musical statement on the score, a rather buoyant sounding guitar piece is employed by the composer that is interspersed by a playful sounding muted trumpet solo and occasional light hearted harpsichord flourishes which are all punctuated by a choir and shouts of “EHI AMICO C’E’ SABATA HAI CHIUSOI”. Percussion carry the composition along at pace and provide the films anti hero with a musical accompaniment that is par excellence. The theme returns at various stages of the story, and creates a musical continuity that the audience can easily identify.
The soundtrack also contained a fair dusting of the obligatory saloon piano compositions, but even these are not quite as annoying as they are in other Italian western scores. The composer also provided some slower more romantic and heartfelt pieces that were performed on solo violin and a dramatic piece for organ that has more than a fleeting resemblance to TOCCATA AND FUGUE, the organ piece is heard during an action scene and also is utilised in a scene where Banjo is in a church playing the organ after Sabata has shot dead one of Stengal’s henchman who has been masquerading as a priest. The soundtrack at the time of the films release was requested by many collectors and was eventually issued in Japan plus united artists records released the main theme and also the track BANJO on a 45rpm single. The success and popularity of this movie was clearly evident and the sequels RETURN OF SABATA and THE BOUNTY HUNTERS were released in 1972 and 1973 respectively, the latter having actor Yul Brynner taking on the persona of Sabata, Brynner adding his own personal touch to role. Ironically the reason Brynner was hired was because Lee Van Cleef was unavailable and was busy filming one of the many sequels that was spawned by THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, taking the part of Chris who of course was originally portrayed by Yul Brynner in the original movie.
This compact disc not only contains the score for SABATA but also has the complete recording of THE RETURN OF SABATA, which is equally as entertaining as its predecessor. Giombini on this occasion taking a lighter and at times a more comedic and at times pop influenced approach and including some outstanding choral work by the distinguished IL CANTORI MODERNI and Alessandro Alessandroni, which included gasps, neo classical performances which were underlined by fuzzy sounding electric guitar and jews harp and an array of percussive elements. Giombini’s flair for originality and experimentation with orchestration is certainly suited to the compulsive, unconventional and quirky characteristics of the genre that was cruelly nick named the Spaghetti Western and here we have two fine examples to savour and treasure thanks to Hillside CD production. The score for SABABTA is a reminder of this genre and also stands as testimony to talents of composer Marcello Giombini.
An Italian made western from 1967, Ballata Per Un Pistolero received only a limited release in cinemas outside Italy. The music by composer Marcello Giombini was never actually released on a recording at the time of the film’s screening. However, a single 45rpm disc was issued, which contained the film’s title song performed by Peppino Gagliardi. This, like many other songs from Spaghetti Westerns, was successful in the Italian hit parade, and has been included on a handful of Spaghetti Western music compilations that have been issued in Italy and Japan. This, then, is the first time ever that Giombini’s wonderful score has been available to collectors in its entirety and, in my humble opinion, it has been worth the wait of nearly 40 years. Ballata Per Un Pistolero is in some ways similar to Giombini’s Sabata soundtracks, but maybe not quite as bouncy and quirky, The music is possibly more varied as it contains a more diverse mix of compositions that are not so repetitive.
The central theme is in many ways akin to Nicolai’s Indio Black theme, minus the chorale parts, with racing snare drums providing backing to an electric guitar solo which is enhanced by the use of solo trumpet and wistful sounding flutes and piccolos. There are also a number of cues where the composer utilizes organ, which are interesting and entertaining. The central theme crops up a few times throughout the score, but in numerous and varying arrangements, which keeps the listener engrossed and the music remains fresh and vibrant. Giombini also throws in a few of the obligatory saloon/cantina tracks and even these are not as irritating as normal.
Overall, Ballata Per Un Pistolero is a soundtrack that is a must-buy item for any collector of Italian film music, and contains many of the now stock trademarks that we associate with the music for the Spaghetti Western genre; electric guitars, solo trumpets, racing snares, Mexican-sounding dance music and urgent sounding cues for the action sequences. The sound quality of the song, which appears at the end of the soundtrack, is strangely not as good as the rest of the CD – maybe this came from the original single tapes and not the film masters? Other than that I recommend this soundtrack highly.
Originally released in Italy during the summer of 1969, Sabata did not materialise in UK cinemas until 1971 and when it did finally get a release it was cut by more than 15 minutes. The score for this gimmicky and quirky addition to the spaghetti western genre was the handiwork of Italian maestro Marcello Giombini. At the time of scoring the movie Giombini was relatively unknown and unfortunately was to remain amongst the ranks of so many of the unnoticed and ignored composers that work within the cinema. The score for Sabatahas for many years now been on a number of collectors wish lists to receive a release on CD. The soundtrack was issued originally on vinyl as a single in Italy and Gt. Britain, with an LP being released on a Japanese label in 1972. This pressing also received a re-release a few years later with a slightly different colour scheme, and also an American address on the cover, even though it was actually a Japanese release.
The score is a collection of themes for the films principal characters, and is dominated by the theme for Sabata (Lee Van Cleef), which utilises a jangely electric guitar which is supported by strumming guitar and percussion, which is sprinkled with a Morricone like choir, who every so often half shout half sing,” E Amico Che Saba Ta “. The theme is then taken on by trumpet and embellished with flourishes of harpsichord, guitar and choir. This theme is repeated throughout the work and is heard in varying arrangements and orchestrated for larger orchestra on occasion giving it a more grandiose and dramatic presence. ‘Banjo’ is the theme for one of the storylines other main players, it consists of solo ukulele which fronts the composition and introduces the theme, it then builds into a quite lush and pleasant string orientated theme that could be a love theme rather than a theme for a gunfighter, the composer incorporates a sleigh bell effect into the theme at times, because the character wears bells around his trouser bottoms. The ‘Banjo’ theme is a integral part of the film, as the character which it represents (William Berger) plays his adversaries a tune on his banjo before he proceeds to gun them down, with a cut down rifle that is hidden inside of the banjo. This is yet another example of music playing a major part in the storyline of an Italian western, the integration of the instrument making the score for the film more than just background to the action, but an important and comprehensive part of the movies plot. This practise was exploited more fully in the movies directed by Leone and scored by Morricone, i.e., the chiming watch in For A Few Dollars More and the harmonica in Once Upon A Time In The West. Giombini touches on this in Sabata but maybe not to the degree as exploited by Morricone, although Giombini does manage to achieve the desired effect, creating some interesting moments where film and music work extremely well together. The other main theme in the score is a highly dramatic trumpet led piece written in the style of a slow almost deguello like composition, that is driven by ominous sounding swirling and dramatic strings and slightly subdued percussion that act a foreboding and effective background to the highly charged trumpet solo. The cue ‘Nel Covo Di Stengal’ is a masterful piece of scoring that is synonymous to the style that was employed on the Italian western genre. The remainder of Giombini’s score contains a powdering of saloon piano pieces, which are entertaining and short lived, and a tense and exciting piece which is very similar to ‘Toccata And Fugue’ in its construction and sound.
This release also boasts a vocal version of the Sabata theme, sung in German by, if I am not mistaken, popular vocalist at that time, Peter Boom, the reason that this was included was apparently Sabata was extremely popular in Germany when it was initially released, and the track was discovered in the vaults at GDM. Also included on the disc is the score from The Return Of Sabata, again by Marcello Giombini, this score is slightly more pop orientated, with a title song that is at times not unlike the theme song for another Lee Van Cleef western Captain Apache. Giombini,s efforts on this soundtrack were probably not as inspired or as original as on Sabata but nevertheless The Return Of Sabata does boast an entertaining sounding work by the composer.
The art work for the CD is very eye catching, and utilizes the original poster for Sabata, plus a number of stills are included within the CDs booklet. This is a compact disc that I would recommend to any film music enthusiast, as it evokes memories of an age of film making and film scoring that sadly will never return. Connoisseurs of the western, Italiana, and spaghetti western soundtrack will adore it and return to it many times. Available via Hillside CD Productions in Strood, Rochester Kent.
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