Sinfonia Vaticana - L'arte Dello Spirito

Stelvio Cipriani

" While bulk of the score is mostly terrible music, the moving quality of the opening cue is expanded upon in two more cues using the unique abilities of Dell’Orso "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Stelvio Cipriani (20 August 1937 – 1 October 2018) was an Italian composer, known from his scores to films as Reazione a Catena (Bay of Blood), Tentacoli and Anonimo Veneziano. His musical voice was usually one of acquired taste and I often admired and rejected some of his ideas simultaneously. As far as I can remember, I have never (negatively) associated a specific instrument with a film composer, but in the case of Cipriani it is the harpsichord. It is not an instrument I necessarily dislike, but it has felt like an inappropriate component on great portion of his work. I also believe strong musical coherence was certainly not one of the things that defined him, while it was his strong suit in some genre films. In writing the music to Mario Brava’s Gli Orrori del Castello di Norimberga (Baron Blood) one of his best, he easily could lose himself in brilliant atonal pieces featuring drums, devilish bass clarinet and distorted guitars. while he would also write a ’happy-go-lucky' main theme. It is not that difficult to select some brilliant independent tracks from a lot of works at random, but I rarely have been able to fully connect with a complete score.

In 2006 a documentary series called The Vatican Museum was released, revealing the impressive collection of awe-inspiring pieces, including Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and The Sistine Chapel. Drawing inspiration from such a legacy sounds like the dream come through for every composer. Cipriani’s approach is one of using old and modern (synthesizers) and drawing inspiration from classical music and his own religious background. It’s unclear if the music as released on the Sinfonia Vaticana - L'arte Dello Spirito cd by Cinevox is also directly heard in the documentary.

The Sinfonia Vaticana opens with Resurrection, a moving aria with wonderful set of strings, organ and harp supporting the evocative singing of Edda Dell’Orso, who once gain reaches great heights. A more detailed look into other components of this cue reveals a strange choice by simultaneously introducing a synthesizer melody alongside a lovely string motif. The grace and moving qualities of the composition makes such synths acceptable, but it foreshadows something that is regularly a problem within a score by Cipriani.

Indeed, the large remainder of the score is a bizarre situation of missed opportunities and an estranging mixture of conflicting musical elements, which could partially been avoided by the use of full orchestral palette. The general quality of the writing itself often feels inferior, as if written for some dreary drama, and certainly does not evoke a strong profound sense. Another baffling part are the awkward quotations of classical music, from lifting the modulation of a famous sonata to partially lending a piece of a certain melody, which is mostly done with no sense of care.

While bulk of the score is mostly terrible music, the moving quality of the opening cue is expanded upon in two more cues using the unique abilities of Dell’Orso: The Divine Liturgy and Jubilee of he Century. Both cues still face facing similar difficulties because of the tedious synthesizers, but they remain most inspirational. The Sounds of the Sixteen Chapel is a rather moving piece, using full orchestral sensibilities and disposes of any synthesizer interference. The Last Judgment is underscoring the focus on the therefore mentioned artwork by Michelangelo and is a surprisingly pleasant cue written for bass string plucking and piano.

1 Resurrection 3:57
2 Michelangelo's Frescoes 4:11
3 The Divine Liturgy 3:41
4 Canova's Dream 2:39
5 The Grand Restoration 4:35
6 The Last Judgment 3:09
7 Jubilee Of The Century 3:45
8 Allegretto 2:49
9 Solemn Panorama 3:09
10 Civil Wars 3:31
11 The Sounds Of The Sistine Chapel 4:15
12 Andante Arioso 3:57
13 Conquering New Lands 2:53
14 The Organ Of St. Peter* 3:24
15 Royal Hall 3:32
16 Festival Of The Bells 2:21

Total duration: 56:21

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Released by

Cinevox (regular release 2010)