Tag Archives: Stelvio Cipriani

THE QUEENS MESSENGER. (sleeve notes for the KRONOS RECORDS release)

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Released in 2001. QUEENS MESSENGER, stars, Gary Daniels as Captain Strong, who is a member of the SAS on loan as it were to the Secret Service, who put him to work as a messenger. Strong is a seasoned and highly thought of officer who has the trust of his government. He is a given a highly volatile assignment which involves the perilous task of delivering an important message to the British Consul in Kazakhstan. He must guard the message with his life, as it contains the details of a number of secret agreements that have been made by a handful of heads of state regarding the control of the country’s oil resources. Strong must keep his wits about as there are many who would like to relieve him of this important document. Ben Samm, is one such person, he is the leader of rebels who most certainly benefit from gaining control of the regions oil exploration right. Whilst travelling to Kazakhstan, Strong meets and teams up with American news reporter Alexi Jones played by Teresa Sherrer, who has heard rumours surrounding the Country’s oil resources and is investigating these, but also becomes curious about Captain Strong’s part in it all. Both the reporter and Strong are captured by the rebels, who have also kidnapped the British Ambassador, and are holding him hostage. Strong decides he must attempt to escape and lead his fellow prisoners to safety. Directed by Mark Roper, QUEENS MESSENGER, is an enjoyabl thriller, that contains more action than storyline, the movies central character becoming involved in an overabundance of chases, shoot outs, and fast paced hand to hand fighting, which take up approximately 90 percent of the films duration. The Bulgarian/Canadian and British co-production, was made on a low budget and sadly at certain points within the movie this does show, but saying this it still manages to entertain without the audience having to think to much about the plot. The musical score for QUEENS MESSENGER is the work of Italian Maestro, Stelvio Cipriani, who came to the notice of the cinema going public back in the 1960, s via his, inventive, haunting and infectious soundtracks to Italian produced westerns, such as A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, THE BOUNTY KILLER and THEY CALL ME ALLELUJAH to name but three. His theme for A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN became a worldwide hit with artists such as LeRoy Holmes and Henry Mancini including arrangements of it on their albums. Cipriani also became known for his highly emotive and theme laden score to THE ANONYMOUS VENITIAN. The music for QUEENS MESSENGER is in the main action driven, with up-tempo themes and near martial sounding cues dominating the work. But the composer also manages to include a lush and romantic sounding side to the soundtrack, in the tracks, BACK TO LIFE and ALEXI’S THEME with strings that swell and rise and solo piano that is delicate and alluring, which adds a degree of fragility to the proceedings. Its sound not being a million miles away from the composer’s music for THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN.

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Cipriani does have a distinct and recognisable sound, but for QUEENS MESSENGER, the composer employed a more conventional approach, relying upon strong performances from, brass. percussion and strings, with Female solo voice making a subtle appearance from time to time, giving the score a touch of ethnic authenticity. He also bolsters and supports the conventional orchestra with a handful of electronic and synthetic additions which combine with the symphonic seamlessly. Thanks to Kronos records we can hear one of the composer’s lesser known works for the silver screen.

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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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SHE-WHO MUST BE OBEYED. (2001).SLEEVE NOTES FOR THE KRONOS RELEASE.

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There have been a number of cinematic versions of the classic H.Rider Haggard tale of adventure, mystery and romance SHE. This particular incarnation of the story was released in 2001, Directed by Canadian born Timothy Bond who has mostly worked in television contributing to series such as MUTANT X, GOOSEBUMPS, HERCULES-THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, FOREVER KNIGHT and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS among others. This particular re-working of SHE tells the tale of Leo Vincey (Ian Duncan) who has received a map from his late Father, the map shows the whereabouts of the legendary lost city of Kor. Vincey accompanied by his partner Roxanne (Marie Baumer) sets out to not only find the City but also to find out the mystery that surrounds his own ancestry. After a while it transpires that Vincey is a direct descendant of an Egyptian priest who dared to fall in love with a Princess and for his crime was executed. On finding the lost city Vincey discovers that the ruling Queen is in fact that same Princess, AYESHA-SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED (Ophelie Winter) who has somehow via magic remained youthful throughout all of the centuries that have passed. When Vincey is presented to the Queen she becomes convinced that he is the reincarnation of her dead lover who has returned to be with her but is enraged and becomes intent on killing him. H. Rider Haggard’s inventive and exciting story has transferred to film well on more than one occasion, in fact one of the first cinematic presentations of the story was in 1925, it was then filmed again in 1935 which is the version that many say is probably the best.

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Hammer films in the U.K. also made a version of the story and cast Ursula Andress in the title role who was supported by Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing and John Richardson, the movie was such a success it spawned a sequel THE VENGEANCE OF SHE which sadly was not as lucrative for the house of horror. The story of SHE is one that is filled with romantic and dramatic scenarios, it is steeped in mystery and also has to it an aura that is magical and compelling. The musical score for SHE (2001) was composed and conducted by Italian Maestro Stelvio Cipriani, the Maestro was no stranger to scoring movies which contained such a plethora of action and excitement, after all his career in scoring movies began back in the early 1960,s and has continued to flourish and grow with the composer still active in the film scoring arena today. Cipriani was born in Rome in 1937 and after leaving school decided to train as an accountant, eventually however he decided that it was music that he would follow as a career. He was particularly active during the 1960,s through to the mid 1980,s scoring numerous Italian made westerns and penning one of the most famous themes from that genre A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN which was written for the movie THE STRANGER RETURNS in 1967.

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Cipriani excelled when it came to creating infectious and haunting themes for motion pictures his most famous or notable non western score being for the award winning movie THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN in 1970, a soundtrack which is still today held in high regard by many and remains available as a recording after numerous re-issues etc. The composer is also able to create spine chilling and fearsome musical cues for the horror genre working on movies such as BAY OF BLOOD and BARON BLOOD. Cipriani,s score for SHE is a powerful one, filled with lush and rich sounding thematic material that would not be out of place in one of the many epics as produced by Hollywood during the Golden Age of cinema or even because of its appealing and alluring melodious persona might be mistaken for any of the works of Angelo Lavagnino, Carlo Savina or Carlo Rustichelli when either of the three Maestros worked on Italian made sword and sandal sagas. Mysterious, romantic and filled with drama and apprehension.

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It also contains a slightly more contemporary feel in parts with the composer adding at times a modern or upbeat style to the proceedings, the inclusion of which maintains an air of freshness and vitality throughout the work. The composer has over 250 film scores to his credit and his music has been heard more recently on films such as THE MAN FROM UNCLE, DEATH PROOF and GRINDHOUSE.

John Mansell (MMI/IFMCA)

THE BLACK SPIDER.

SLEEVE NOTES FOR THE KRONOS RECORDS RELEASE, 2016.

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Composer Stelvio Cipriani, has worked in almost every genre of film. His music punctuating and enhancing a multitude of scenarios and situations. His film scoring career began in 1966 when he wrote the music for the Spaghetti western THE BOUNTY KILLER, but he had previously been a pianist in a small band which would perform on cruise ships and also play in many of the dance halls that had opened and become very popular in Italy during the late 1950,s and into the early 1960,s. After doing a number of cruises the composer returned to Italy where he became pianist to the now well known Italian singer Rita Pavone who had just begun her career in show business. The composer put his success in the writing of music for the cinema down to the various experiences that he had encountered whilst playing in a band and also acting as accompanist to Pavone. He felt that working in an environment where you had to arrange or be able to play a piece at a minutes notice was at times invaluable when it came to delivering a film score on time or at very short notice, which is often the case in the world of the film music composer. He also felt that orchestration was an important part of the composing process and carried out the orchestrating duties on 99 percent of his film scores. His most popular film score within the Spaghetti western genre has to be A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, the theme that the composer penned for this spaghetti sage brush saga has endured throughout the years and is still looked upon by many collectors and aficionados as an iconic piece of music and one that has gone down in Italian cinema history, being covered by numerous artists Henry Mancini, Geoff Love and LeRoy Holmes among them. He is also revered for his work on THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN which contained a lush and romantically laced soundtrack. Cipriani is probably one of the most well known composers who worked in film in Italy alongside the likes of Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai and others such as Gianni Ferrio and Francesco de Masi, his music being most prominent during the mid to late 1960,s through to the end of the 1980,s working on movies such as BLINDMAN, FEMINA RIDENS, MARK IL POLIZIOTTO,TENTICOLI,A BAY OF BLOOD, PIRANHA ll, THE GREAT ALLIGATOR, THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW, RABID DOGS, BARON BLOOD, COME TOGETHER, THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE, THE SILENT STRANGER, HEADS YOU DIE TAILS I KILL YOU, RETURN OF ALLELUJAH and many more. Born on August 20th 1937 in Rome, Cipriani came from a non musical family and according to the composer he became involved in music by chance.

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He initially trained as an accountant and after qualifying he worked for a year in that job, but whilst doing so also enrolled at a music conservatory to study. His first music lesson were when he was a small child and was given guidance by a Priest at the church he attended, as a youngster Cipriani was fascinated by the organ and the Priest noticed the young boys aptitude for music and alerted his Grandfather to this. Cipriani marks composers such as Henry Mancini and Nino Rota as his influences, “I would have to say that the great Nino Rota is at the top of my list of influences, his music for the films of Fellini especially had a great effect upon me, he was I think a complete musician”. The composer also worked with Dave Brubeck and scored movies for Mario Bava. “My collaboration with Mario Bava was always very good, he was shall I say a careful and meticulous director. He took great care when film making and was always interested in how the music would work within his films, he always found time to attend the recording sessions”.

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This latest release from Kronos records is something of a rarity and will be a treat for all collectors of Italian film music the world over. THE BLACK SPIDER has music by Italian Maestro Stelvio Cipriani and is a multi themed work which is filled with a veritable smorgasbord of musical colours and textures. At times the score leans towards the more easy listening or lounge genre of music that is associated with numerous Italian movie soundtracks but also it does occasionally contain a deep and dark sound within its perimeters that becomes unsettling and sinister. We can hear within the work influences from previous Cipriani scores such as the aforementioned THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, with lavish sounding strings, harpsichord and piano combining to create light but at the same time substantial tone poems that linger long after one has ceased to listen to the compact disc. The composer utilises to great effect this combination of instrumentation to achieve an overall sound that is inventive and supremely entertaining. Each cue is wonderfully written and cleverly orchestrated by the composer, the piano solos in particular verge on concerto like performances which are full of melody and hauntingly attractive. To support the more traditional instruments the composer also employs synthetic sounds and electronic embellishment which fuse seamlessly into the proceedings giving the score greater depth and a higher level of atmospheric impact. There are also a number of cues that include organ and guitar solo performances, these evoke the sound of Morricone, Trovaioli and Nicolai during the 1960,s. This is a score that will be returned to many times and one that will be a worthy addition to any film music collection.

John Mansell © 2016 (ifmca) Movie Music International.

IL DIAVALO DELLA GUERRA / THE WAR DEVILS

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Released in the December of 1969, IL DIAVALO DELLA GUERRA or THE WAR DEVILS is one of the better movies produced by Italy during the 1960,s that has its storyline set during WWll. It has a strong cast in the form of leading actors Guy Madison, Anthony Steel and Venantino Venantini and support from a whole load of familiar Italian movie stalwarts, with a short appearance at the films outset by John Ireland as an American officer, but don’t blink or you will most definitely miss him, but for me personally it is Venantini that steals the show as he portrays so convincingly a German officer, but saying this Madison too puts in a very good performance. The movie begins in 1943 in the desert campaign of North Africa, with a German security unit in pursuit of an American commando outfit under the command of Guy Madison. After a long pursuit the two units end up joining forces in an uneasy alliance in order to survive the crossing of the blistering desert. Because the German unit is better equipped and larger they in effect are holding the Americans prisoner but as they exit the desert the German commander decides to release his captives, but tells them in no uncertain terms that if he meets them again in combat he will kill them. A year later the American Captain is sent on a mission to rescue a British intelligence officer (Anthony Steel) who has been captured by the Germans and is being held captive by them in a fortified base and guess who is in command of this base? Yes you guessed it the same German commander who released Madison but vowed to kill him the next time he set eyes on him. An interesting plot and one that contains a few surprises and twists along the way, in essence we have here a movie that contains not one but two war stories, filled with action and also having a little romance on the side. Directed by Bitto Albertini WAR DEVILS is an entertaining movie that contains some convincing battle scenes especially the final shootout which is very much akin to the final battle from THE DIRTY DOZEN and also has certain affiliations to FIVE FROM HELL. The music for the picture is the work of Italian composer Stelvio Cipriani who came to prominence in film scoring via his Spaghetti western scores such as THE BOUNTY KILLER, A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN and music for the ALLELUJAH series of westerns. For this movie however the composer employs a sound and style that is very different from his forays into the western genre and includes striking use of brass to purvey an atmosphere of drama and martial sounding timpani that has to it a machine gun like sound in certain passages. I at first thought the style achieved here was very much like the music of fellow Italian Maestro Francesco De Masi, when he worked on films such as LA BATTAGLIA D’INGHILTERRA and the original INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978).

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Cipriani utilises a grand sound that is perfectly suited to the battle scenes and the wonderful cinematography of the movie, it is expansive and highly expressive in its make up and underlines not only the action but is also extremely supportive during the films quieter and more suspenseful moments, plus the composer also provides the film with a romantic sound that is reminiscent of the golden days of Hollywood with surging strings and highly emotive melodies in fact I suppose the composer has created a score that in the main hails from the Italian school of film music through and through, but at the same times contains attributes that are uninfluenced by the more traditional war movie scoring styles as employed by Hollywood. This is yet another musical gem from Italian cinema and also an interesting and alluring addition to Kronos records growing Gold Series that has preserved some of Italian film music’s lesser known but fine works, which I am sure would have been lost forever or left to languish in dusty vaults forever. Presented well with striking art work and informative notes. Another for your collection, available for pre order now.