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The Romance of a Bygone Era

The Romance of a Bygone Era

John Williams was born in New York City in 1932, the son of a jazz drummer, Johnny Williams. The Williams family moved to Los Angeles in 1948, where John attended North Hollywood High School. He studied composition privately and for a short time at UCLA before being drafted into the U.S. Air Force. During his service, he arranged band music and began conducting.
His first feature-film composition was for Daddy-O in 1958, with his first Oscar nomination coming for the 1967 film score for Valley of The Dolls. His career well underway, Williams composed the rousing and energetic The Cowboys Overture. 

The Cowboys is a 1972 film starring John Wayne, who plays a veteran rancher about to embark on a cattle drive when his crew abruptly leaves to join in the California gold rush. With no real alternatives, he enlists the help of a group of local schoolboys. He manages to train the boys and get the cattle drive underway. Their long journey is placed in jeopardy when the bandit (played by Bruce Dern) sets his sights on stealing the herd. 

In The Cowboys Overture, Williams expertly captures the excitement of wild horses and the wide-open frontier. The merriment around the campfire is contrasted against the loneliness of the open range. The piece is organized like a set of variations. While Williams draws from previous styles to generate a Western sound, he places his own distinctive, modern stamp on the score.

The Cowboys Overture is full of the rhythmic drive and lyricism that are hallmarks of Williams’s work! With sweeping strings and triumphant brass, many listeners will be reminded of the music of Aaron Copland. In fact, many have described The Cowboys Overture as “Copland-esque.” 

Ennio Morricone was born in Rome in 1928, just four years before John Williams. He was exposed to music at an early age since Ennio’s father was a trumpet player. At age 12, Morricone began studying at Saint Cecilia Conservatory, where he studied trumpet, composition, and choral music. However, he began composing music at an even younger age. At just 6 years old, he was already composing! 

The Italian film Cinema Paradiso follows the story of a young boy, Salvatore, who discovers a way to escape from life in his war-torn Sicilian village: a movie house called Cinema Paradiso, where the projectionist instills in the boy a deep love for movies. When Salvatore grows up, he falls in love with a beautiful local girl and takes over as the Paradiso's projectionist. His old friend, and former projectionist, must convince Salvatore to leave his small town and pursue his passion for filmmaking. 

The magic of movies is undeniable in Cinema Paradiso and Morricone’s lyrical score for the film has become one of the most recognizable in movie music history. The nine opening musical notes instantly conjure nostalgia, romance, and a deep longing.

One of the most memorable parts of the score is a hauntingly beautiful melody played on the oboe. The theme has become one of Morricone’s most iconic compositions and is instantly recognizable to fans of the film.

Another standout from the score is “Love Theme for Nata,” a romantic and melancholic piece that features a soaring violin solo. This perfectly captures the bittersweet nature of Salvatore’s relationship with his childhood sweetheart.

Ennio Morricone’s score for Cinema Paradiso is a stunning work of art that perfectly complements the film’s themes and emotions. It is a must-listen for any fan of film music or classical music in general.