There are legends, and then there are screen legends - and then there's Ennio Morricone.
In the history of cinema, few composers have made a mark as indelible as Morricone; over a career than spans six decades, he's soundtracked the entire landscape of film, collaborating with iconic filmmakers from across the globe in every imaginable genre, from Sergio Leone westerns (The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) to John Carpenter chillers (The Thing), from classic French farce (La Cage aux Folles) to epic American gangster flicks (The Untouchables); he's done them all, clocking up over 500 film and TV credits - while composing an additional 100 plus classical works and the theme for the '78 World Cup!
Last year, at the grand old age of 87, he finally won his first Oscar for Best Original Score, for his magnficently moody score for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. Make no mistake, however - this was no lifetime achievement gong (he received one of those already, back in 2007). In his ninth decade, the Maestro remains a potent musical force, working regularly and wowing audiences around the globe with live concerts drawing from his extensive back catalogue - this month, he returns to Dublin for a show at The 3Arena on September 23rd, in what is being described as his final Irish concert. For the occasion, over 200 musicians and singers will join him on stage. Naturally, tickets are being snapped up at a furious rate.
"The Irish audience has always been very very generous with me," says Morricone. "The welcome has always been so warm, so enthusiastic. They have always been very attentive, and there were a lot of standing ovations, and this gives me a lot of satisfaction. I'm very happy to go back to Dublin."
Morricone's busy live schedule hasn't precluded him from creating new work for film and TV, although he's working at a less frenetic pace than during his '70s heyday, when a typical year might have seen him score more than a dozen projects. "You know, I'm still very very happy to work in the film business, and to compose music for films," he says, "but I'm doing that much less for many reasons. First of all, because I receive less offers, maybe because people think that at my age, I'm not working with the same enthusiasm I was in the past. Secondly, because I am more particular with the directors I like to work with. For instance, there is an Italian, a very important Italian director I really appreciate (Giuseppe Tornatore, for whom he's scored ten movies) and I'm working very often with him. I'm not so happy to work with directors that I don't get along with so well. Let's say I'm much more selective when I have to accept a job these days."
Morricone's approach to composing has evolved over the decades - understandable when you've literally composed hundreds of hours of film music. "I need to think about it more deeply," he says. "It takes more time. I don't write for as many hours as I used to do in the past. I do a lot of corrections. I sometimes throw away what I have written. So you know, there is the same urgency, but the way of working, my method has changed a little bit."
Don't think that Ennio Morricone is ready to hang up the baton anytime soon, however - he remains a restless musical force. "It is true that I'm working less in cinema," he says, "but if that weren't that the case, I wouldn't have had the time to write other unique works. For instance, I wrote a mass a couple of years ago for two choirs, and an orchestra for two pianos and one orchestra. So even though I'm less busy with cinema, I'm very busy with other music."
I'm happy to perform the pieces that they've appreciated, and that have been very successful, because they are good pieces too!"
Following his rapturously acclaimed Irish live debut at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham in 2013, Morricone returned in glory in 2015 and again last year, attracting new generations of fans lining up to pay their respects. Make no mistake, however - these shows are no mere exercises in nostalgia for movie buffs who just want to hear the themes from The Mission and Cinema Paradiso - an Ennio Morricone concert reveals the full extent of the Maestro's formidable oeuvre. "There are two kinds of works that I usually perform live," he says. "On one side, there are the music pieces that I really love, ones that I really appreciate that maybe are less known. I decided to perform them live because I really want the audience to know them, because I particularly care for them. And then there are all the classics, all the hits that the audience really appreciate, that they want to listen over and over again. I'm happy to perform the pieces that they've appreciated, and that have been very successful, because they are good pieces too!"
The Big Question: Is this really Ennio Morricone's final Irish concert? The Maestro, who turns 90 in November, deftly skirts the question. "I didn't say that personally, but apparently this is the case," he says. So I don't take full responsibility for what was told."
Ennio Morricone: Farewell Concert, 3Arena, Dublin, September 23rd - details here.