Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2019 March 25 • Monday

The 562nd Soundtrack of the Week is Nino Rota's music for Amarcord.

The main title is airily swinging but with wistful, melancholic breezes running throughout it.

You’re going to hear this melody a million times, so it’s a good thing for everyone involved that it’s so charming.

It gets combined with a some sprightly flute playing in “Amarcord (Il barbiere)”, suggested by the simple solo piano of “Amarcord (Scuola pianoforte)”, reprised in “Lo struscio” Parts 1 and 2, with the former mutating into the dance number “Quel motivetto che mi piace tanto” and then into “Stormy Weather” and then reversing course to reprise “Quel motivetto” and “Amarcord” while the latter does a similar thing with “La cucaracha” and “Stormy Weather”.

“Gary Cooper” is basically a bluesy version of the title at first before going in a lush orchestral direction and “Amarcord (Grand Hotel)” is a dreamy and reverby piano-led take on the piece.

There are even some “Amarcord” marches but they don’t sound much like the main theme to me.

“L’emiro e le sue Odalische Part 1” is a riff on “Sabre Dance” with some more middle Eastern flavors and Rota-isms thrown in, including unexpected breaks for the subdued and nostalgic mood of the score in general to take center stage. “Part 2” is less sabre, more Rota.

Another recurring piece is the Spanish guitar number “Siboney”.

One of the most powerful iterations of the theme is as a rich orchestral intro and outro for the multi-textured “La Gradisca e il principe”. This second tune reappears immediately in “Amarcord (Tenderness)”

And so it goes, in numerous variations and instrumentations. (The arrangement of the theme for just guitar and harmonica is especially poignant.)

Unique to Rota, I think, is his blending of a few horns to create an immediately recognizable color and texture. He easily expands this to take advantage of the possibilities of the voices of a dozen other instruments. And from there he widens his scope even further, to blend and attach genres with each other.

The results are always musical, even magical and bewitching. This release of the soundtrack to Amarcordcomes close to being two CDs’ worth of one tune. But you never want it to end.