Joseph Conrad's Nostromo is a pretty impenetrable read and the television version, lavishly mounted by the BBC, was equally confusing to most viewers and as a result, almost nobody watched it. This unfortunately meant they also missed out on one of Ennio Morricone's finest scores and undoubtedly one of the finest scores for television ever written.
The score's undoubted high point is The Silver of the Mine, an outstandingly gorgeous effort for orchestra and wordless soprano, of course supplied by the wonderful Edda dell'Orso. It is written in the great tradition of themes such Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America, but I think that it even surpasses those undeniable classics. Opening with gentle soprano and orchestra, this leads into a purely orchestral performance, while Morricone's knack for adding unusual extras to the orchestration is much in evidence in the later stages as he counterpoints the expansive beauty of the theme with short, high range trumpet fanfares. It doesn't sound a promising prospect, but rest assured that the result is extraordinary. The third verse, as such, again features Edda dell'Orso with the trumpet fanfares as well as occasional fast and short scales in the strings. When the theme climaxes, it is a moment of pure musical ecstasy that is a thrill that never palls.
The albums is worth purchasing on the strength of the Silver of the Mine alone, but there are of course many other highlights. The Tropical Variation introduces the album with a bouncing piano backing, decorated with pan pipe and shrill brass motifs and onto this is, a pair of successive descending scales is added. The dynamic of this idea is then beautifully offset as we move into the aforementioned Silver of the Mine. There other major idea is introduced in the titular track and is more sombre and thoughtful than the Silver of the Mine theme, but no less impressive - especially when gently intoned by the choir. This is used most notably in the For Emilia tracks (of which there are four, strangely) and has a more hypnotic and restrained feeling that nicely provides intimacy against more expansive theme.
For some reason, it was decided to release a double CD, which is unfortunate as there are two identical versions of The Silver of the Mine as well as a few other tracks which are very similar in nature. Cutting the repeat, plus one of the shorter cues could have allowed for a single 80 minute disc. Being a double CD makes the album somewhat more expensive than it might have been, which is bound to deter some from trying out what is a sublime score. It would be hard to choose between this and Morricone's earlier Secret of the Sahara for his finest, if not the finest TV score ever, but for sheer beauty, Nostromo is in a class of its own. An essential in any collection, outstanding.