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CD: Grande duello, Il (1972) / Man Called Noon, The (1973)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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May, 2012

Tracks / Album Length:

27 tracks / (65:31)



Luis Bacalov


Special Notes:

12-page colour booklet with liner notes by Robert Cueto / Limited to 500 copies.

Comments :    

It’s taken quite some time for Luis Bacalov’s The Grand Duel (1972) to make its way to CD after a long absence (its last appearance was as a double-bill with the composer’s 1972 score, Si Puo Fare… Amigo, in 1995, and a solo score release in 2003), and while fans of spaghetti westerns will be aware of the score’s popularity, film fans may not be aware of the score’s main theme being the pivotal cue used by Quentin Tarantino during the O-Ren anime flashback in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).

Quartet’s CD features an impeccably mastered presentation of the complete score, plus a quartet of bonus alternates, and while the quality of the music is obvious, Grand Duel is another example of the superb engineering typical of Italian soundtracks. Quartet’s CD features a fabulously warm sound, capturing the depth of classic analogue audio with rich bass tones without sacrificing details in the mid and high ranges.

Bacalov’s score is really structured around two themes: the main cut, with its slow rhythmic intro and elongated melodic line which builds ever so slowly to a modest operatic high; and an up-tempo honky-tonk variation first heard with piano, fiddle, banjo, and soft mixed chorus. The second theme is often replayed with slightly different variations in instrumental groupings, and alternating chords before a quick finale.

The main theme does recur in slight variations, mostly in terms of drum hits, harmonica solos, strings, and woodwinds, but there are few inventive digressions within the score. One version (Part V) features a saturated synth chord paired with South American woodwinds, and a later version pairs woodwinds with strings in a slight lament.

Bacalov’s writing is very evocative of Ennio Morricone – he captures the slow burning drama and operatic qualities of Sergio Leone’s epic films – and the score is bookended by a theme rendition featuring Edda De’Orso, giving the impression the producers really wanted their film to tie-in with Leone’s work (the casting of Lee Van Cleef certainly helped), but Quartet’s second score, written for Peter Collinson’s The Man Called Noon (1973) presents a much richer offering of themes, variations… and an unusual surprise.

Still taking a nod from the spaghetti western style established by Morricone, Bacalov sticks with a similar instrumentation (including Dell’Orso’s vocals in “Fire and Guns”) but the tone is a more peculiar blend of humour, tragedy, and genre conventions. A staggered march rhythm figures in the title theme, but its appearance is to augment the image of a warrior, which Bacalov contrasts simultaneously with a rich, string-heavy melodic line.

The “Prologue” really establishes the score’s darker mood with a threadbare theme version, plus echoplexed strings and brass accents reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien (1979). South American woodwinds and acoustic guitar are centre stage in the beautiful “Highlands,” and in cues like “Mr. Rubble Noon” and “In the Fortress,” Bacalov uses the full orchestra (including a rare inclusion of brass), adding an unusual level of dissonance. A few cues offer some pensive theme variations – such as the chamber version in “Quietness” – and then there’s the comedic cut “Rimes,” which introduces a secondary theme that’s almost note-for-note identical to Hans Zimmer’s Sherlock Holmes [M] theme. Zimmer’s second Holmes score includes (and acknowledges) a Morricone theme, but the obvious link between Bacalov’s western and Zimmer’s variation is impossible to miss.

Of the two scores on Quartet’s disc, Noon is the more sophisticated and rewarding due to its broader dramatic content and richer thematic variations; Duel is a fine score, but its largely monothematic, and the frequent verbatim reiterations make it a little monotonous. Bacalov could write a great tune, but he could also expand a theme’s material into striking, brutal versions when a film’s musical palette allowed for more – as is the case with Noon.

Robert Cueto’s lengthy booklet notes provide a good background on the films and their music, and some detailed examination of each score’s instrumentation.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan

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