Musashi (volume 1 & 2)

Ennio Morricone

" His main inspiration for writing the music was drawn from the humanized motivations of the samurai warrior; his fears, his love, his spiritual sense. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Japanese movies and television series heavily rely on composers of Japanese origin, exceptions aside. The first real significantly change was applied in the late 90s, hiring European orchestras for an considerable amount of scores. Of all the projects, the most significant are scores for which they used the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. Kenji Kawai´s Avalon is the culminating score of unrivalled perfection, written by a Japanse composer, using both a Japanese orchestra and the Warsaw Philharmonic (and their choir), aided by the wonderful solo voice of Polish soprano Elżbieta Towarnicka. The next important change was the prolific score the French Cécile Corbel wrote to the studio Ghibli film Arietty in 2000. It was intriguing to see that such a studio entrusted the music to a European composer. Ennio Morricone´s followed that trend in writing the music to the 2003 Japanese series Musashi, part of the NHK taiga drama legacy, being the first foreign composer to write the music for a new chapter. The annual taiga drama, based on historical events, started in the 1960s and a lot of relevant Japanese composers have at one point attached their names to the series.

The Musashi series concentrates on a lone Samurai warrior, which shows similarities to Per Un Pugno Di Dollari (A Fistful of Dollars), which was based on the Japanese Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa). The producers of this series contracted Morricone, in the hope he would produce a similar score to the Italian western, but Morricone went to approach the Mushashi series from a rather different point of view. His main inspiration for writing the music was drawn from the humanized motivations of the samurai warrior; his fears, his love, his spiritual sense.

Musashi was released on volumes CD releases. I do not know how much music was written for the entire series, but I imagine there is a lot of music missing. The first volume displays typical Morricone trademarks; memorable melodies, great viola solos, frenetic brass, pan pipes and much more. Unsurprisingly, the composer only vaguely uses minuscule musical motifs that resemble the Japanese culture. The second volume (Musashi Encore) features both differently orchestrated pieces from the first volume and some new. Generally, some of the newly orchestrated pieces now have a considerably softer touch to them.

The Brivio DI Guerra theme is one of the few perfectly constructed themes. The version of the first volume features three piccolo trumpets, chorus and a sweeping strings, closest to the Morricone touch that so many love. Brivido DI Guerra Version Trumpet Solo is exactly what it says; an imminent and grand performance for trumpet solo only, likely the best I have heard from him. The Brivido DI Guerra Version Chorus puts more emphasis on the chorus, omitting the trumpet solo. I do like all three of them a lot.

La Sua Donna is a great love theme, perhaps not his most memorable, but the Soprano solo on the Encore releases, featuring the great voice of Izumi Masuda, suddenly transports this theme into the collective memory of many, at least I hope it does. Her voice was also heard in the VOICES - Music from Final Fantasy concert in 2006.

Musashi E L'amicizia features pan flutes, but on the encore release they are replaced by strings only. On the one hand the pan flutes evoke a 'retro' Morricone sound, but the string version ensures a softer and more elegant tone.

Musashi E Il Tradimento is a mixture of beauty and tragedy (introduced by the repeating string motif), with a great oboe solo. On the Encore release, the cue Honokana Omoi / Strings [Musashi E Il Tradimento - Version Strings] (4:55), the oboe is replaced by strings that turn the composition into a great adagio for strings. Similarly to Musashi E L'amicizia and Brivio DI Guerra, to choose a better version is quite hard. The repeating string motif is arguably the most appealing musical ideas from Musashi. The Tre volte Amore theme is different. I like the strings version from the Encore release, much more than the first volume using a solo viola.

The suspense in the first and second volume come close to perfection. The Encore release introduces some suspense music, equally great to the ones on the first volume. Musashi Attacca (Vol 1) is no better than Intrigho Poliitca (Encore). The same goes Musashi Lotta, featured on both releases, with small changes to the piece. Interestingly, the newly introduced Hiren cue (Encore) is heard in a baroque version with flutes, but the Hiren / Strings version shifts into suspense mode.

Morricone's work as heard on the two volumes has become very dear to my heart. The encore release does feature some more softly re-orchestrated pieces from the first volume, but both of them offer equally great music. In more recent days, some of the music of Taiga drama series, Gunshi Kanbei (Yugo Kanno) and Hana Moyu (Kenji Kawai), were released on three volumes. It is unclear how much music Morricone actually wrote, but the two Musashi volumes are just exciting.

Tracklist Musashi (Volume 1)
1. (Brivido di guerra)(04:21)
2. Romansu (La sua donna) (02:37)
3. Yuujou to ketsui (Musashi e l'amicizia)(04:43)
4. Honokana omoi (Musashi e il tradimento) (04:58)
5. Kibou (Musashi e l'attesa) (03:50)
6. Aishuu no tema (Tre volte amore) (03:55)
7. Tabidachi (L'avventura come guerra) (03:23)
8. Kettou (Musashi lotta) (04:19)
9. Misuteriasu (Notte misteriosa) (04:21)
10. Taiketsu (Musashi attaca) (06:13)
11. Futsukame no yoru (Seconda notte) (03:23)
12. Senran Musashi e la vendetta) ((03:44)
13. Yokan (Schifratt) (04:48)
14. Eien no tabidachi (Reazione riflessiva) (02:39)

Total Duration: 57:06

Tracklist Musashi Encore (Volume 2)
1. Musashi / Trumpet Solo [Brivido di Guerra - Version Trumpet Solo] (1:33)
2. Romance / Soprano Solo [La Sua Donna Version Soprano Solo by Izumi Masuda] (2:33)
3. Humorous Ni (Un Po Ridicolo) (3:12)
4. Sora Wo Mitsumete (Guardare Il Cielo) (3:53)
5. Ichizoku No Tatakai (Battaglia E Sangre) (2:05)
6. Hiren / Flute Solo [Le Altre Version Flute Solo by Kaori Fujii] (2:24)
7. Inbou (Intrighi Politci) (3:54)
8. Rival (Rivali) (3:26)
9. Ketsutou / Timpani & Brass [Musashi Lotta - Version Timpani & Brass] (4:16)
10. Saikai No Toki He (Aspettado L'Incontro) (2:02)
11. Honokana Omoi / Strings [Musashi E Il Tradimento - Version Strings] (4:55)
12. Hiren / Strings [Le Altre Version Strings] (3:50)
13. Yujou to Ketsui / Strings [Musashi E L'Amicizia Version Strings] (4:39)
14. Aishu No Theme / Strings [Tre Volte Amore Version Strings] (3:52)
15. Musashi / Chorus [Brivido di Guerra Version Chorus] (3:33)

Total duration: 50:07

(written 07-07-2019)
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(total of 8 votes - average 2.56/5)

Released by

Victor (regular release 2003)