Music Break: Ennio Morricone’s The Mission – Gabriel’s Oboe

I’ve been wanting to feature this haunting score for a while now, and since Easter was just a few days ago, I thought it’d be fitting to feature it this week.

TheMissionPosterEnnio Morricone is one of my favorite composers of all time, with Cinema Paradiso being one of my favorite scores ever. There’s something so highly evocative about his music, and whilst Cinema Paradiso is more lush and romantic in nature, this score for Roland Joffé 1986’s film The Mission has a poignant and haunting quality to it. It’s one of those pieces I’d describe as so achingly beautiful as whenever I listen to it, it pierces my heart and stirs my soul.

I saw this film years ago and after seeing the trailer last night, I’m compelled to see it again. The story centers on 18th century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American Indian tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal. It features fantastic performances from major thespians such as Jeremy Irons, Robert DeNiro and Liam Neeson.

The main theme, called Gabriel’s Oboe, is one of the most stirring piece of music I’d ever come across. The name of the score refers to the scene where Father Gabriel (Irons) travels to Iquazu Falls, climbs to the top and plays his oboe. The Guaraní community who lives above the Falls had tied a priest to a cross and sent him over the falls to his death, but the Guaraní warriors were captivated by the music and allowed Gabriel to live.

Morricone’s score for The Mission was ranked on #1 in a poll of the all-time greatest film scores and is ranked 23rd on the AFI’s list of 25 greatest film scores of all time. Morricone received a second Oscar nomination for The Mission, but lost out to Herbie Hancock’s jazzy score for Bertrand Tavernier’s Round Midnight. (per Wikipedia)

I owned a couple of Sarah Brightman‘s CD, and one of my favorite songs from her is Nella Fantasia (In My Fantasy). Well, apparently it was based on Morricone’s Gabriel Oboe theme he did for this film! Brightman was such a big fan of that music that he begged Morricone to put lyrics to the theme to create her own song.

My next song was originally an instrumental written by the composer Ennio Morricone for the film The Mission. About three years ago I wrote to Mr. Morricone, asking whether he would give me permission to turn this particular piece into a song. He flatly refused. So every two months I would send yet another begging letter, until I think he became so sick of me that he finally relented. And I am really glad that he did, because I think it works beautifully as a song. (per Wikipedia)

Here’s the Sarah Brightman‘s rendition of Nella Fantasia (I can only find the live version):

Few scores are as exquisite and powerful as this one… Mr. Morricone is certainly a legend amongst even the best film composers ever, and this stands at the top of his amazing work.

I hope you enjoy today’s Music Break. Thoughts on this film and/or its music?

25 thoughts on “Music Break: Ennio Morricone’s The Mission – Gabriel’s Oboe

  1. Rich

    Well, to me, Morricone will always be associated with Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, but when I did a post on Morricone awhile ago, I got to listen to some of his other work, and you’re right about CINEMA PARADISO. It’s a very fine soundtrack. Are you familiar with his score for THE UNTOUCHABLES?

    1. Well I’m not into Westerns so I guess I have not seen any of the Sergio Leone movies. I have listened to The Untouchables one, but I still love this and Cinema Paradiso the most. Morricone is just a brilliant composer.

  2. It’s VERY fitting (and bizarre) that you choose this music at this time Ruth. I’ve been off work all week and I’ve been spending my time driving around the hills and villages of rural Scotland and guess what soundtrack has been playing regularly throughout my trip? Yes! Ennio Morricone’s The Mission. I chose to bring it with me, knowing that it would slot in nicely with the landscape.

    1. WOW, that is uncanny Mark!! You are actually listening to this very score all week? We might’ve been listening to it at the same time last night. We must be kindred spirit 😀 Yes I’d think this score is VERY fitting indeed for driving around the hills and villages in Scotland. Oh man, I wish I could do the same whilst I’m listening to this!

  3. Ted S.

    My introduction to Morriricone’s music was through all those spaghetti western films by Leone and Corbucci, I started watching those films when I was very young. The most memorably themes to me were the scores for three of Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns and the haunting theme he did for The Great Silence, one of the great little seen western films. Tarantino copied a few scenes from that film for his Django Unchained.

    I really like his theme for The Mission too, I haven’t seen the film in ages though. Might have to buy it on BD soon.

    1. I don’t know if I want to see Sergio Leone films but I might listen to Morricone’s soundtrack.

      Hey, if you do buy the BD I’d borrow it again 🙂 I remember the visuals are quite beautiful in this movie, too.

      1. Ted S.

        This one is my favorite theme from the three Eastwood’s spaghetti films, it always brought back the memories of my younger years when I first saw all those films.

        This one was actually used in Kick Ass, it was in a scene where Hit-Girl dressed up like a school girl.

  4. Oh, nice choice, Ruth. Morricone is one of my favorite composers as well. His love theme for Cinema Paradiso and the theme for Malena are my favorites, but this is up there too. 🙂

  5. I’ve not seen the film but I’ve just given the music a listen and it’s superb. I’ve only heard Morricone’s music in Django Unchained and Once Upon a Time in America, but he really is a fantastic composer. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

    1. Ted S.

      Terry if you enjoyed his music in Django Unchained then you should give a listen to his scores for all those spaghetti westerns, great stuff.

    2. I actually haven’t listed to the Django Unchained one, but I’m sure it’s awesome. It’s amazing how Morricone could cover such different genres and each piece is so unique. The film is excellent as well Chris.

  6. Yeah Ruth as i mentioned before this is one of my favorite soundtracks. They actually used some of the music in a Juan Valdez for Columbian coffee growers commercial back in the 80’s. I couldn’t find the exact one but imagine “On Earth as It Is in Heaven” being played over something like this:

    Cinema Paradiso would have top be up there too. A Other ones that stand out for me are The Untouchables and The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Days of Heaven, Malena and Once Upon a Time in America. His versatility and ingenuity was his strength. He could write some really moving scores… something that John Williams never did for me. Sure Williams’s scores were iconic and memorable but not nearly as moving… except Schindler’s List.

    Check out the lesser known soundtrack from the movie Fateless (a collaboration with Lisa Gerrard) from 2005, Daniel Craig actually has a small part in the movie. Couldn’t find any good videos. Samples can be found here:

    1. Larry

      Cannot agree with you more. More income’s touched me to the soul, a place no other composers were able to get to. Williams, no matter how iconic his score is, rarely get to me, with the exception of the main theme for Schindler’s list and his early work on Jane Eyre (George C Scott).

    2. Hi Dave! Oh I LOVE LOVE Cinema Paradiso score, I also love the song version sung by Monica Mancini: She’s got such a beautiful voice that’s perfect for this song.

      I’m not familiar w/ Morricone’s work in Westerns as it’s not my genre though. Oh I LOVE Lisa Gerrard, thanks for letting me know about Fateless!

  7. Awesome commercial, I LOVE the voice narrating it. I’ve done a post on Cinema Paradiso before: That stands as one of my favorite score of ALL TIME! Someone mentioned Malena before, I should give that movie a rent soon. I do love Williams too, I think Schindler’s List is perhaps on par w/ this one as far as its power to struck deep into your soul.

    I love Lisa Gerrard’s voice. Her contribution to Gladiator soundtrack is just incredible!!

    1. If you like Lisa Gerrard check out the soundtracks for The Insider and Whale Rider. Have ’em both. Haunting stuff.

      The voice in the Juan Valdez commercial kind of reminds me of Ricardo Montalbon of Fantasy Island and Chrysler Cordoba’s “Corinthian leather” fame. LOL.

  8. 70srichard

    I’m ashamed to say my copy of “The Mission” soundtrack is an LP that is still packed in a box from a move I made in 1994. This post reminds me again how broad Morricone’ s work was. I need to go digging in the garage and find all that treasure.

  9. Larry

    Morricone is just my favorite film composer of all time, and my wife’s as well. His scores for once upon a time in the west, once upon a time in America and cinema paradise are Untouchables and are all in my top 10 favorite film score of all time.

    But this piece, Gabriel’s Oboe, is just something out of this world. Maybe it is a gift from th heaven. I listened to it a lot and every time it brought tears to my eyes. The movie itself, is also quit enjoyable to say the least.

    1. Hi Larry! Glad you discovered this post, I always love it when people commented on my music break posts even much later.

      Yes this Gabriel’s Oboe is definitely out of this world and spiritual. I love that you said it’s like a gift from heaven. It fits the story of the film so well and it’s got a transcendental quality about it.

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