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Section Header
The Mission
(1986)
American Cover

International Cover

Composed, Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:
Ennio Morricone

Performed by:
The London Philharmonic Orchestra

London Voices

Barnet Schools Choir

Incantation

Label:
Virgin Records

Release Date:
1986

Also See:
Glory
Amistad
1492: Conquest of Paradise

Audio Clips:
2. Falls (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

3. Gabriel's Oboe (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

7. Vita Nostra (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

16. Asuncion (0:29):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

Availability:
The American and international commercial albums for this score feature identical contents but different artwork. Virgin Records also later produced an SACD version of this album.

Awards:
  Winner of a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award. Nominated for an Academy Award.









The Mission

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Buy it... if your collection is absent of a single Ennio Morricone score, for there would be no better a place to start than the timeless melodic brilliance of the three heartbreaking themes at the center of The Mission.

Avoid it... if nothing less than a challenge-free listening experience from beginning to end will suffice, in which case the substantial amount of disturbing, dissonant material on the second half of this score's album may be a deterrent.



Morricone
The Mission: (Ennio Morricone) If only Warner Brothers' 1986 production of The Mission had been slightly re-written and shot by a more capable director, it could have transcended to a level of greatness few films achieve. It had so much potential to be a classic of the highest ranks, only to be spoiled by senseless direction and characters so poorly scripted that it was hard to care about their inevitable demise. The story has "epic" written all over it, telling of the tragedy that awaited an indigenous tribe in South America in 1750 as the imperial powers of Spain and Portugal swapped territories and therefore priorities for the Indian tribes. The now nearly extinct Guarani Indians are the focus of The Mission, converted to Christianity under the Spaniards but at danger of death or slavery upon the handover of their lands to the Portuguese. Two Jesuits fight to save a hilltop mission for the tribe, though Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro's paths have brought them to their destiny from different directions and the former decides to use passive prayer to protect the mission while the latter attempts to mount an ineffective military defense. The procedural brutality with which the Cardinal of the region, representing the interests of the Pope, brings about the ultimate decision eventually leads to a confrontation that will assign all of the protagonists of the film their meaningless deaths. On the whole, The Mission had spectacular aspects in its favor but also nagging problems that go well beyond the narrative's depressing conclusion. The two Jesuits are poorly rendered and De Niro's character is especially underdeveloped (not to mention the miscasting of the actor). The confrontation at the end of the picture is almost unintelligible, offering the audience no sense of clarity or vision that could have solidified the story's message. Roland Joffe, as much as he tried so desperately to make The Mission as authentic as possible (shipping in an entire tribe of extras to his desired region despite the fact that none had ever seen a movie in their lifetimes), failed to ever capture the same critical acclaim that had graced The Killing Fields a few years prior, eventually fading into obscurity after a few unimaginable disasters in the 1990's. On the other hand, The Mission was phenomenal in its auxiliary production values, easily winning an Academy Award for cinematography with the kind of scenery rarely seen. Another widely praised element of the film was Ennio Morricone's Golden Globe and BAFTA-winning, classically-informed, and highly memorable score.

Most composers' careers are remembered for one defining score, and for Morricone, despite his much-loved work earlier in his career for Spaghetti Westerns, this defining work is generally considered to be The Mission. So much of what you hear in other respected composers' music of the coming decade was influenced by this score that you have to give it due respect even if the film's challenging atmosphere repulses you. The work is a successful blend of symphonic romanticism, choral authenticity, and South American instrumentation, bound together by an extremely attractive harmonic tone that yields three outstanding primary themes. The beauty of Morricone's music for The Mission is tempered by the necessary dissonant challenges presented by the story, but it is ultimately characterized as a hopeful and redemptive piece, its themes often reaching high into the ranges of its performing soloists as a call for peace and guidance. The employment of various soloists is precisely calculated outside of the obvious source inspirations, utilizing sounds that perfectly enunciate the lyrical appeal that Morricone was attempting to achieve. In these regards, the emphasis on solo flute and oboe in the gorgeous melodic portions of The Mission will remind some listeners of George Delerue's often beautiful approach to similar circumstances. The embellished flourishes of the flute in "The Mission" in particular will endear this score to Delerue collectors. Morricone, of course, has himself never been a stranger to heartbreaking melodies, often enriching his scores for countless obscure European productions with such undeniably soothing tones, and even some of the secondary motifs explored only once in The Mission could anchor another entire score by themselves. Of his three major themes for this film, two of them are inevitably intertwined, and these represent the Guarani Indians and Irons' character, Father Gabriel. Often considered the film's most prominent melody is the latter, heard best in the two cues on album entitled "Gabriel's Oboe." Two interesting structural aspects of this theme distinguish it. First, Morricone doubles up many of the notes in its progression, serving the dual purpose of giving the theme a ponderous spirit and accentuating the simple but pretty harmony in its constructs. Secondly, he tacks on a final, six-note phrase to the end of the theme that it could well have done without, but this inclusion brings both an ethereal sense of hope and additional beauty to the remainder of the theme. Both may have been inspired by Irons' tinkering with the instrument. A deliberate tapping of harpsichord or cymbal underneath this theme is always a pleasant rhythm-setter, giving the score its only real connection to European sensibilities of the time.

Heard in its only solo form in "River," the choral theme for the Indians utilizes well-mixed jungle percussion and chanted vocals to produce a sound not dissimilar to John Williams' song for Amistad. The vocals sometimes take a smoother route, a sound emulated no doubt by Vangelis for 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Such is the case in "On Earth as It Is in Heaven," the end credits piece. In this cue and "Vita Nostra," this tribal theme is joined by Gabriel's theme over the top, first on oboe and then on flute. The latter instrument in "Vita Nostra" produces the more dynamic sonic range (sometimes, as at 1:35 in that cue, holding high notes for a whole five seconds!), and while "On Earth as It Is in Heaven" is the better known piece, "Vita Nostra" has an arguably superior mix of these primary two ideas. The vocal performances extend out into a couple of source-like cues, including "Te Deum Guarani," a short song of lamentation accented by pan pipes. An interesting aspect of the recording of the ensemble vocal sequences is the prominence of one or two soprano female voices in the group that occasionally shine beyond the others' performances, especially in the end titles piece. One somber reminder of the fate of the mission and the tribe is "Miserere," a short performance of the score's third theme by solo boy's voice. Some listeners will be reminded of Howard Shore's techniques for The Lord of the Rings in this cue. It's fitting that "Miserere" closes the listening experience, because after all is said and done in The Mission, only the picturesque waterfalls of the location remain. This third theme indeed represents the falls and their perpetuity, handled by Morricone with fluid string layers in almost all of its incarnations. It is this theme that James Horner combined with a touch of Carl Orff to form his final sequence in Glory, though Morricone's version of the same idea is far more pensive. The theme, highlighted by its delayed plucks on bass strings and/or timpani taps, is the musical definition of yearning. The theme inspires De Niro's character's desperate search for redemption in "Climb" and "Remorse" and accompanies the film's eerie opening sequence in "Falls" with setting-establishing pan flutes and a brass-accented crescendo at the end. Its melody is transferred to flute in the somber but pretty "The Mission" before the final "Miserere" cue confirms the theme's representation of a melancholy destiny. While this theme unfortunately does not interact with the other two outside of coincidental counterpoint, it does feature a slight glimmer of hope in its string interlude, heard in "Falls" and "The Mission." Together, the three primary themes do occupy the majority of running time in The Mission, well defining the overall work and overshadowing the second half of the album.

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There are a handful of singular ideas throughout the rest of the score that merit attention, but none is as thoughtful and palatable on album as the brief piece that Morricone provided for De Niro's character and his brother, played by Aidan Quinn. In "Brothers," the flute in its lower ranges is joined by acoustic guitar for a melody lovely enough to accompany Gabriel's theme in any compilation; unfortunately, this theme is by necessity cut short and the guitar is thrust into a more difficult, forcefully plucked performance of the idea in "Carlotta." Another theme is explored by Morricone in "Penance," though this cue mostly makes use of extremely low woodwinds in a boiling rhythmic progression that culminates in a few immensely disturbing crescendos; bassoons wouldn't sound as terrifying again until Shore's The Lord of the Rings scores. This cue represents perhaps the most developed of The Mission's darker half. Indeed, the listening experience for this score, despite all the positive buzz deservedly generated by the three primary themes, is not a consistent one from beginning to end. The orchestral dissonance of "Penance" and "Refusal," the latter awkwardly employing brass in faint calls to arms, leads to a sparse set of cues from "Asuncion" to "The Sword" that only offers a return to harmony briefly in the last cue of that group. The blurting pan pipes, thumping piano, and other disturbing elements of these cues, when combined with the obviously problematic "Penance," constitute almost half of the entire score and alone restrain the overall score from obtaining the highest rating from some listeners. Ultimately, The Mission is by no means a uniform experience on album, and some rearrangement will be necessary to collect the superior harmonic material into an outstanding twenty to thirty-minute presentation. The effectiveness of even Morricone's darker music for The Mission is not questioned, and when this fact is taken into consideration alongside the phenomenal quality of the rest of the score, it is difficult to justify anything lower than the top rating for the whole package. The mix of The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Voices, and the ethnic group Incantation (for the light percussive parts) is well executed, though the pan pipes and solo boy's voice are at times too pronounced (especially in the relation between "Miserere" and the rest of the recording). The quality of the 1986 recording in sum will likely please the buyer of this score on any of its plethora of international albums (all with identical contents despite different cover art), though an SACD version of the score was eventually made available for audiophiles. Both this score and Jerry Goldsmith's arguably superior Hoosiers lost the Oscar to Herbie Hancock's 'Round Midnight that year, reason alone to permanently shun that body's senseless voting habits. This is Morricone at his best, and of all his failed Oscar bids, The Mission deserved the award more than any other. *****   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Ennio Morricone reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3 (in 8 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 8,083 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





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 Track Listings (All Albums): Total Time: 48:37


• 1. On Earth as It Is in Heaven (3:48)
• 2. Falls (1:53)
• 3. Gabriel's Oboe (2:12)
• 4. Ava Maria Guarani (2:48)
• 5. Brothers (1:30)
• 6. Carlotta (1:19)
• 7. Vita Nostra (1:52)
• 8. Climb (1:35)
• 9. Remorse (2:46)
• 10. Penance (4:00)
• 11. The Mission (2:47)
• 12. River (1:57)
• 13. Gabriel's Oboe (2:38)
• 14. Te Deum Guarani (0:46)
• 15. Refusal (3:28)
• 16. Asuncion (1:25)
• 17. Alone (4:18)
• 18. Guarani (3:54)
• 19. The Sword (1:58)
• 20. Miserere (0:59)




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert includes the general tagline of the story, but no extra information about the score or film.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from The Mission are Copyright © 1986, Virgin Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/11/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.