Ennio Morricone, his contribution to international cinema and culture

Ennio Morricone passed away at the age of 91. We remember the life and works of one of the most important soundtrack composers of the 20th century.

Over 500 scores written for film and TV, seven nominations and two Oscars. Countless other nominations and awards from the world’s most prestigious festivals. During his long career as a composer and musician, the “maestro” Ennio Morricone was honoured and universally appreciated throughout the worlds of music, cinema and international culture.

This outpouring of esteem and admiration is now being redoubled in the final goodbyes to the great Italian master, who passed away this week after a truly extraordinary life.

morricone 2007 roma film festival
Ennio Morricone at the Roma Film Festival concert in 2007 © Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Goodbye Ennio Morricone

The great musician, arranger, and orchestra conductor Ennio Morricone passed away on the night of 6th of July at a clinic in Rome. His femur had broken a few days prior after falling at home, which led to complications and eventually his passing.

The family has announced that the funeral will be a private affair, “out of respect for the humility that inspired his whole life”.

It also stated that the maestro:

“[…] preserved full lucidity and great dignity until his final moments. He said goodbye to his beloved wife Maria, who accompanied him with dedication in every moment of his human and professional life and was close to him until his final breath, and thanked his children and grandchildren for the love and care they’ve given him. He gave a touching remembrance to his audience, whose affectionate support always enabled him to draw strength for his creativity”.

Ennio Morricone with his wife, Maria Travia
Ennio Morricone with his wife Maria Travia at the ceremony celebrating his star in Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 2016 © Rodriguez/Getty Images

The world mourns Ennio Morricone

The loss of the great master has left the whole world mourning one of the greatest soundtrack composers of all time. The news quickly made its way across international media, with celebrities and figures from the worlds of culture and politics sharing their thoughts and remembrances on social media.

During his long career, he garnered esteem, admiration and accolades from all over the world. He received the Italian Order of Merit (with the title of Commendatore dell’ordine al merito della Repubblica Italiana) in 1995 and was became a member of the French Légion d’Honneur in 2009.

Most recently, on the 12th of January, he was invited to the Italian Senate to receive a career achievement award reserved for extraordinary figures in Italian arts and culture. Despite the many honours he received throughout his life, Morricone was deeply moved by this prize.

Morricone and Bertolucci
Ennio Morricone with Bernardo Bertolucci at the Nastri d’Argento ceremony in 2013 © Getty Images

From spaghetti westerns to Tarantino

Ennio Morricone rose to fame as a composer in the 1960s thanks to the collaboration with his childhood friend Sergio Leone. Morricone created some of his most memorable soundtracks for the director, starting with Leone’s first spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars, followed by the other two films in the Dollars TrilogyFor a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The fruitful partnership led to other timeless masterpieces such as Once Upon a Time in the West, Duck, You Sucker!, and Once Upon a Time in America, which was Sergio Leone’s final film. Morricone became best known for his western scores also thanks to collaborations with Sergio Corbucci and Duccio Tessari. But his work ranged widely. Over the years, Morricone covered many different genres, including the fantastic soundtracks for films like Cinema Paradiso – which won Giuseppe Tornatore an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1990 – and Novecento by Bernardo Bertolucci.

It wasn’t long into the maestro’s career before Hollywood wanted his great musical talents for its own films. Starting in the 1970s, Morricone collaborated with some of the greatest American and international directors, such as Brian De Palma, John Carpenter, Barry Levinson, Mike Nichols and Quentin Tarantino.

These partnerships helped the composer win many awards, including five Oscar nominations. These came for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, Roland Joffé’s Mission, Untouchables by Brian De Palma, Barry Levinson’s Bugsy, and Malèna by Giuseppe Tornatore.

However, Morricone had to wait until 2007 for his first win, when he received the Academy’s Honorary lifetime achievement award for his “magnificent and varied contributions in the art of music for film”.

Nine years later, in 2016, Morricone won another Oscar for the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. The maestro deeply respected Tarantino, a feeling that originated in the American director’s passion for spaghetti westerns.

ennio morricone oscar 2016
Ennio Morricone won second first Oscar for the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight © Getty Images

Composer, arranger, teacher

Born in Rome in 1928, Ennio Morricone studied at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, possibly following the path of his father, a trumpeter. He began writing and composing for cinema in the mid-1950s, while he was also arranging songs for Italian record company RCA. Not everyone knows that among the most famous songs arranged by Morricone there are some classic Italian pop music hits such as Edoardo Vianello’s Pinne fucile ed occhiali and Guarda come dondolo, Gino Paoli’s Sapore di sale, and Mina’s Se telefonando.

In addition to his long and fruitful career as an arranger and composer, Morricone also worked as a conservatory professor and orchestra conductor, which led him to be the protagonist of many concerts all over the world, attended enthusiastically by a diverse audience.

Tornatore and Morricone
Giuseppe Tornatore and Ennio Morricone at Roma Film Festival in 2012 © Ruscio/Getty Images

Condolences from Italian leaders

The news of Ennio Morricone’s death quickly made its way around the world, leading to condolences from celebrities, journalists, public figures, and politicians alike. Italian President Sergio Mattarella declared:

The loss of Ennio Morricone has deprived us of a distinguished and brilliant artist. A musician that was both popular and refined, he left a profound mark on musical history in the second half of the 20th century. Through his soundtracks, he greatly contributed to spreading and strengthening Italy’s prestige.

Even Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte publicly paid his respects to the great composer:

These voices joined a unanimous chorus praising an artist and a man who, with his talent, music and intelligence has undoubtedly achieved immortality.

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