Full Length Jewel Case CD
Ennio Morricone - La Tenda Rossa (The Red Tent)
Krasnaya Palatka, La (1971, Russia)
Tsiteli Karavi (1971, Russia, Georgian title)
Red Tent, The (1971, United States)
Restored version from original mastertapes.
The Red Tent, also known as La Tenda Rossa, was an English-language Italian film made in 1970, directed by Russian filmmaker Mikhail Kalatozov. It starred Peter Finch as the real life adventurer General Nobile, who led a team of brave explorers into the Arctic in 1928, only for his mission to end in death and disaster. Told in flashback, the film also featured Sean Connery, Claudia Cardinale and Hardy Kruger in supporting roles. However, arguably the famous element of the film was its score - written, of course, by the master Ennio Morricone.
In a recent poll amongst Morricone fans, the love theme from The Red Tent was voted to be the single most beautiful theme the Italian maestro has ever written. This is of course a bold claim, especially when you consider that Morricone has written around 600 scores in his career to date. Who have heard all of them (?), and probably not many ever will, but we certainly agree that 'Tema D'amore', the first cue on this album of music, is absolutely gorgeous. Tentative, straining strings effortlessly build into the most-spine tingling rendition imaginable. When the solo female vocals (an uncredited Edda Dell'Orso) enter the fray after a minute and a half, it melts your heart. The love theme re-appears several times during the course of the score, notably during the majestic 'Un amore come la neve', and the conclusive cues 'Sono vivi' and 'Addio', both of which act as a perfect showcase for the spellbinding viola solos by Dino Asciolla. Other cues of note include 'La tenda rossa', which develops from an unusual, synthesiser based opening into a beautifully tragic variation on the love theme, again performed on sweeping strings. 'Morte al Polo' is the score's only action cue, a memorable four-minute excerpt combining further performances of the soaring main melody with some throbbing string work, parts of which seem to have been inspired in a small way by Bernard Herrmann's music from Cape Fear. In addition, 'Messaggio da Roma' features an interesting touch, with a piano mimicking morse code accompanying the lugubrious tones of the celli and basses. Concluding the album is a highly dissonant, 22-minute piece entitled 'Altri, dopo di noi', which roughly translated means Others, Who Will Follow Us. I assume that this single piece comprises several individual cues of underscore joined together by the album's Italian producers, who for reasons unknown were unable to break them down, or assign them cue titles. Unusually, the piece opens with over five minutes of pure drone - eerie sustained chords passed between various parts of the strings and woodwinds, occasionally overlaid with textures in a higher register or a rumble from deep in the basses, which gradually become increasingly prominent as the piece progresses. Ticking percussion, morse code pips, harsh brass phrases and eerie vocal work enter soon after, transforming the cue into something resembling more "conventional" action music. It makes for interesting listening, certainly, but more conventional than the other cues. By the time the 22 minutes are up, you are longing for a further performance of the love theme to restore your state of mind.
The music from The Red Tent was never widely released outside its native Italy, and belatedly surfaced on CD in 1994, and on the relatively obscure Legend label, based in Milan. Therefore, for North American readers especially, it is likely that this recording will be relatively difficult to obtain through conventional channels. However it is most definitely worth going the extra mile to secure a copy before it disappears from the shelves completely. The final suite may be difficult to palate for those with a dislike for genuine dissonance, but the stunning love theme more than makes up for it, and is indispensable for that reason alone.