While his prolific catalog of film scores is exceptional, Morricone will also be remembered for his work in the field of sacred music.
Italian composer Ennio Morricone, best known for his more than 500 film scores, passed away on July 6, 2020, at the age of 91.
Born to a Catholic household in Rome, Ennio was musically educated at the National Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome, and saw his career take off in the 1960s, when he scored several “spaghetti Western” hits such as For a Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966). In these works, Morricone’s style was distinct in its use of sound effects embedded within the music, which Hollywood Reporter notes director Sergio Leone praised, saying:
“The music is indispensable, because my films could practically be silent movies, the dialogue counts for relatively little, and so the music underlines actions and feelings more than the dialogue,” Leone, who died in 1989, once said. “I’ve had him write the music before shooting, really as a part of the screenplay itself.”
While his prolific catalog of film scores — which earned the composer two Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, and four Grammy Awards — remains impressive, Morricone will also be remembered for his work in the field of sacred music. A report from iMedia notes that Morricone, a man of staunch yet humble faith, was part of a gathering of 60 artists who paid musical tribute to Pope Benedict XVI’s 60th anniversary of his ordination.
The Vatican’s obituary goes on to tell how Morricone was so inspired by Pope Francis’s elevation that he wrote a Mass to celebrate both the new pope and all Jesuits. Titled Missa Papae Francisci, the work was also dedicated to his wife, Maria Travia, who had been encouraging Morricone to write such a sacred work for years. The Mass was premiered on the 200th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Jesuit order.
Morricone went on to work with Pope Francis to organize a concert “with the poor and for the poor” in 2016. The charity concert was performed by the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra, the National Academy of St. Cecilia, and Fr. Marco Frisina, raising much needed capital for several charitable projects of the Pontiff. Pope Francis later awarded Ennio the Pontifical Gold Medal, presented by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, on April 15, 2019.
Prior to his death, Morricone wrote a farewell to his family and friends, which was read by his lawyer on the steps of the hospital after his passing. In the brief statement, Morricone wrote:
I, Ennio Morricone, have died. I announce it like this to all the friends who were always close to me and also to those a little distant that I say goodbye with great affection.
But a particular memory is for Peppucio and Roberta, fraternal friends who are very present in these last years of our lives.
There is only one reason that drives me to say goodbye like this and to have a private funeral: I don’t want to bother.
I warmly greet Ines, Laura, Sara, Enzo and Norbert for having shared a large part of my life with me and my family.
I want to remember with love my sisters Adriana, Maria and Franca and their loved ones and let them know how much I loved them.
A full, intense, profound greeting to my children Marco, Alessandra, Andrea and Giovanni, my daughter-in-law Monica and my grandchildren, Francesca, Valentina, Francesco and Luca.
I hope you understand how much I have loved you.
Finally Maria (but not last). I renew to her the extraordinary love that has kept us together and that I regret leaving.
She is my most painful goodbye.