Quattro pezzi per chitarra by Ennio Morricone
Morricone composed these “Quattro pezzi per chitarra” in 1957, a work directly connected with serialism and with the music that in those years Darmstadt was beginning to propose to the world. For those who are linked to the music for Sergio Leone’s films or to the elegant solutions created by the Italian Maestro for the hundreds of soundtracks he composed during a brilliant career, these Pezzi can represent a bitter disappointment: the Morricone who created such beautiful movies soundtracks , desired and loved by milions of people in the world, doesn’t live in thoese scores.
I moved in search of their interpretations and I found only five, five records only.
The first record, produced in 1985 is a double vinyl record, entitled “Ennio Morricone Musiche da Camera”, produced by RCA Red Seal, in Italy, and the guitar player is the Maestro Bruno Battisti D’Amario. This first edition is really beautiful, a double LP perfectly edited in the graphics and notes, with two wonderful essays, in Italian and English, by Sergio Miceli, musicologist and great Morricone’s and film music’s expert.
The second album was made in 1988 entitled “Ennio Morricone Chamber Music”, whose interpreters are unknown, not being indicated in the notes neither of the vinyl record nor of the CD, produced by Virgin Records.
The third edition is instead the work of one of the giants of the Italian classical guitar, Maestro Stefano Grondona, a great performer and concert artist who inserts Morricone’s music in the more general context of other masterpieces of the twentieth century guitar literature such as the Sonata by Antonio José, the Suite by Ernst Krenek, the Cavatina by Tansman, the Quatre pieces breves by Frank Martin, in his album released in 1995 “Novecento”.
The fourth work is by the Italian guitarist Stefano Cardi present in 1997 with the CD “Ennio Morricone percorsi 2” released by Editrice New Sounds and attached to the magazine “New Age Music & New Sounds”.
The last interpretation of which I found a trace belongs to the Italian guitarist Albert Mesirca and is in his cd “Free Guitar on Earth Contemporary Italian Music for Guitar”, released in 2020 for Da Vinci Classic. Then nothing more, these pieces so complex and fascinating do not really seem to interest the classical musicians, for which they were composed.
These Quattro pezzi per chitarra strongly represent one of the most complex aspects of the music of the ‘900: the relationship between the composer, the audience and the sound. The composer of the ‘900 does not limit himself to writing for the instrument, he molds his music around some sound potential that he has intuited and tries to bring out. The guitar music of the 1900s, well beyond the languages and surface styles. it’s animated by the continuous exploration of the plastic potential of its sound.
Certain music sometimes doesn’t want to have a meaning, doesn’t want to “say” something or “tell”, at least not in the sense of our Western tradition. It remains a language as a code created by the composer, because with our senses we perceive codified units that we are pushed to decode because of our habits, but it’s a different language, changing from composer to composer, and then shared with a few. Yet this aspect, so important and radical, even from a historical point of view, only rarely emerges during the performance: most of the time the guitarist is absorbed in the effort to highlight the main stylistic features, to recompose the linguistic modules, to make the emotional tone of the piece. All this work serves only to reconfirm what we already knew about that piece.
I think that instead a truly authentic interpretation should know how to break these superstructures, to go straight to the generating nucleus of the piece, to rediscover the intuition that the composer had about the physicality of the sound and the way he wanted to translate this experience into musical language. An approach of this kind allows us to see the work we thought we knew in a completely new light and to highlight new relationships with other pieces and within the history of that period. Quattro pezzi per chitarra were composed in 1957 and demonstrate the will of Master Morricone to go beyond the Darmstadt’s messages and teachings. They express the need of the musician to overcome the neoclassical language, to rediscover the Baroque tradition, to overcome the compositional archetypes of the instrument.
Sergio Miceli writes in the essay that accompanies the first edition of the Quattro pezzi: “. In other words, Morricone intends here to «rediscover» tradition – essentially in its structural principles – and «discover» the means choosen for the realization of this principles. For this reason, the guitar at times sounds as if it had been carried back to its most archaic origins, «purged» of most of its conventional «automatisms» – glides, trills, arpeggios – by virtue of which the work would risk being drawn, despite itself, into the sphere of the most hackneyed exoticism. And yet this carefully controlled relinguishment with regard to everything that could seem easily datable, this refusal of expressive formulas endowed with referential powers – hence already «possessed» by others, no longer inhabitable and gratifying – do not result in an impersonai and extrinsic abstraction. Whether it’s a question of an interiorized «discourse» (as in the third piece) or the need to communicate is rendered in consequence by an idiom that demands outstanding virtuoso gifts on the part of the performer (virtuosism as a means, not an end, as is the case in the second piece in particular), these Four Pieces succeed in transmitting well-defined poetic images to the listener. In them the dynamic contrast, the repeated notes or the sequences of isolated notes, distant from each other (an interiorized distance, consisting not only of intervals and rests -listen to the fourth piece), constitute the milestones of a distinct itinerary. An itinerary capable of leading into a dimension where «mental» sound – the idealization of the compositional idea – and physical vibration – the materialization of the written page – seem far one instant in a position to bring about the rare miracle of identification.”
Ennio Morricone passed away on June 6, 2020 and, in the meantime, both the race for media beatification and his “rediscovery” by the classical musicians who, often and willingly, threw themselves on the guitar transcriptions of his most famous movie soundtracks. Well. These five records highlight an often deliberately forgotten aspect of Ennio Morricone and often ignored by these guitarists more inclined, for reasons of public satisfaction, to orient themselves towards the paths of Morricone’s film career. I hope that the Four Pieces for Guitar will soon be rediscovered and included in recitals and in the paths of contemporary guitar.