CD: Appassionata (1974)

August 30, 2011 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label:  Quartet Records (Spain) / Released: 2011

Tracks & Album Length:  CD1: 11 tracks / (35:36) + CD2: 34 tracks / (71:23)

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Special Notes:  12-page colour booklet with liner notes by Gergely Hubai / Limited to 500 copies.

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Composer:  Piero Piccioni

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Review:

Even though the plot of Appassionata differs from fellow erotic teaser Last Tango in Paris (1972), it’s quite clear composer Piero Piccioni was either inspired by the sax-heavy, orchestral-lounge fusion of Gato Barbieri’s Tango score, or director Gianluigi Calderone wanted a score written in that specific style, with a similar emphasis on sax, strings, waltzes, and melancholy.

Right from the first cue, Piccioni sets up a tease in which the film’s first erotic theme, “Strano Mercodeli 2” – light sax, quixotic organ, punchy drums – establishes an expectation in audiences for a frothy sexual misadventures whose taboos fall within the realm of safe titillation, but subsequent cues introduce darker shades which more directly tie to troubled marriages, and older men behaving badly with very young girls. (The film is notorious for 19 year old Ornella Muti playing a teenager with Wrong Ideas and Bad Behaviour.)

Piccioni’s other themes include a delicate waltz (“La chatte”) with a dominant mandolin conveying a lilting romantic ambiance, and a variation (“Valzer di Valzentina”) with strings and shimmering organ.

Piccioni’s love of electric organ also manifests itself in “Donna oggetto non identificata,” where the first theme slowly unravels in an unfixed tempo to evoke a character’s uncertainty, hesitation, and wavering; whereas a quick switch to the film’s main theme (“Appassionata”) introduces a bit of sadness before a quick fadeout.

In its first incarnation, the film’s proper main theme, “Appassionata,” begins as a solo piano piece. After a brief recap of the semi-tragic melody, strings slowly seep in, followed by oboe. Swelling strings convey passion and the characters’ naïve expectations, but like his masterwork, Camille 2000 (1969), the composer twists the melody into a deeply melancholic shade, and ends the cue without any thematic resolution.

A dreamier version lies in “Presi per incantamento,” where Piccioni really goes for top-level melancholy by using similar a harmonic arrangement as Camille’s tragic theme. Even with drums and light instrumental touches – such as mandolin briefly accompanying the soprano sax’s melodic line – moments of joy are fleeting, and the theme was carefully designed to avoid coloring the characters with stark, clichéd moods.

“Decrizione di un sogno” pairs soprano sax with oboe, and the lovely duet infers a fleeting sense of stability, as two characters seem to feel comfortable in their taboo relationship, but the lack of a closing statement similarly conveys a state of ephemeral bliss.

In Appassionata, Piccioni wrote striking theme variations, and perhaps more than Camille 2000, there’s a greater focus on introspection – if not from the characters’ perspectives, then perhaps the composer making a subtle statement on the moral conflicts within the film, as evidenced by two delicate piano solos.

Piccioni also twists themes as the drama becomes darker, such as “La chatte a la Satie,” where every note is a bit off, and the carnival organ notes are imprecise. The same deliberate imperfections appear in “Appassionata n.2” where the notes on keyboards transgress into a slight discord.

Whereas Disc 1 in this limited set features the original concise and smooth-flowing original soundtrack album release, Quartet Records have raided the Cinevox archives and packed every alternate cue on Disc 2. The pros: you get everything. The cons: it does get mighty repetitive, although the producers’ re-ordering of cues does help.

This stellar release features superb mastering, and booklet liner notes provide a brief overview on the stars, and bio notes on Piccioni, who maintained an important legal job until his scoring skills were eventually embraced by a steady stream of producers and directors.

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© 2011 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

IMDB Soundtrack Album Composer Filmography

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