Review Summary: Maestro's finest hour
Once Upon a Time in the West is one of those movie classics that are inexorably linked to music. As always, Sergio Leone worked with Ennio Morricone on the soundtrack to one of his Westerns, and, again, it is a very successful marriage. The highly visual music that Morricone composes here makes the viewer experience the film more than once. He regularly leaves everything in suspension of disbelief and sometimes keeps the scene very sober, but the tension that must arise from the film is always amplified by the music. This track usually also stands out and features leitmotives, small melodies related to each of the main characters in the film, just like a Wagnerian Opera.
Over thirteen tracks, Morricone efficiently captures the desolate expanse of the Western world, using a variety of different themes and arrangements. Above all, the track Once Upon a Time in the West is perfect: the most splendid introduction, replica of violins, choral singing and when the solo voice begins to hum the melody - this is one of the most magnificent moments present on the record. But other tracks are also amazing, of course, starting with the harmonic leitmotif, epic and dramatic, always appropriate. Songs like As a Judgment and Man With a Harmonica incorporate an electric guitar for epic effect, while A Farewell to Cheyenne includes whistles and a clip-clop rhythm. There are also some darker themes and ambience, like The Transgression and the two tracks Tabern, which really confine that slow and dangerous atmosphere. Finally, there is Finale, a simply stunning work of art that grows more and more with the unique voice of Italian singer Edda Dell'Orso.
All in all, Once Upon a Time in the West is exciting, emotional and captivating. The soundtrack definitely works without the film and, in fact, its musical depth is only really noticeable without the opulent flow of images. How Ennio Morricone manages to translate the vastness of the prairie into music is just wonderful. The music as a whole contributes to the greatness of the film and, like the score of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, it is considered one of the greatest works of conductor Morricone.