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For a Few Dollars More - Ennio Morricone

The music for all of the Leone westerns, indeed for all of his movies from “a Fistful of Dollars” on, was composed by Ennio Morricone; although “Fistful” was not the first “spaghetti western”, and not even the first to feature a Morricone score, it was the film that established the genre internationally and the first where Morricone's distinctive style of musical composition made its mark.

Sergio Leone made five “spaghetti westerns”, so called because they were made by Italian directors and film companies and because people thought, naturally enough, they were made in Italy, although most were shot in Spain where it was cheaper and the scenery looked more authentic.

Since that first Hugo Montenegro LP, I’ve always been a Morricone fan, so much so that when, in 2003, he celebrated his 75th birthday by appearing at the Royal Albert Hall to conduct the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra and (bizarrely) the Crouch End Choir, I went along with my suitably alternative friend Paul Knobbs and my two oldest children, Tim and Catherine, who were fifteen and thirteen respectively.

For nearly 30 years the Roma Sinfonietta have specialised in playing Morricone’s music and, under his direction have performed his work all over the world. That night they played it for three hours, a remarkable achievement when you consider the age of the composer/conductor, but the time disappeared in a flash. While Morricone is equally proud of his less celebrated "classical" compositions, it was the film music that the audience wanted and that is what we got. The Roma Sinfonietta was magnificent and the Crouch Enders didn't let him down either.

Since the Leone Westerns, Morricone has composed the scores of over 400 films, including "Cinema Paradiso", "The Untouchables" and "In the Line of Fire". All too often, the music is a lot better than the films.

After "A Fistful of Dollars" Leone adopted an original modus operandi whereby, instead of giving the composer the edited version of the film to compose to, he sent Morricone the script before shooting started. Usually, directors shot the film first and the composer created the score to the visuals, literally finally conducting and recording the music with an orchestra in front of a screen showing of the final cut. Here, Morricone, for the first time, composed the music to the script and much of the film was then shot to the soundtrack with the actors able to hear the music at important scenes. This was not so hard as it sounds because the actors were speaking in at least two different languages, English for the US stars and Italian for the rest of the cast, and the words, like the soundtrack, were dubbed on afterwards for whichever nationality were watching.

The motif of the two musical watches, critical to the imagery and story of the movie, is therefore embedded into the music and produced one of Morricone's greatest scores. Leone said that he often lengthened the scenes in his westerns in order to include Morricone's music in full.

Here is an extended version of the section that was used for the buildup to the final showdown of the protagonists, and the version they played that night, one of the many highlights of the evening. It's worth seeing the film in a cinema for the exhilarating emotional effect that the scene and music combine to create. Failing that, you'll just have to wait till the Roma Sinfonietta return to the Royal Albert Hall where you could have heard a pin drop as the tinkling watch music box melody caught our breath like a fairy in the night.

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