Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s magnificent score for Orson Welles’s CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT
Working with Orson Welles, he re-invented you for the purpose of his picture. From then on you became "God" and what you gave him was whatever he needed. This made you a real musician.
—Angelo Francesco Lavagnino in Roseabella
The Italian composer Angelo Francesco Lavagnino first worked with Welles right at the start of his career, on Othello in 1951 and found it to be a wonderful experience, although he says he was paid either nothing or very little.
Lavagnino's next score for Welles came about in 1965, while Welles was editing Chimes of Midnight. Juan Cobos, Welles assistant throughout the production of Chimes related his memories about Lavagnino's work on the film when I talked to him in Spain a few years ago:
JUAN COBOS: One day while working on the editing of Chimes at Midnight, Welles asked me: “Who did the music for my Othello?” I told him “Francesco Lavagnino,” so he called Lavagnino in Italy and invited him to write the music for Chimes at Midnight.
As you know, we had money troubles while finishing Chimes at Midnight, but in Italy the record companies would pay for everything to do with the recording of the music, the orchestration and everything else, because they kept all the rights. So when the Spanish producer of Chimes was running out of money, it was fortunate Welles used Francesco Lavagnino again, as it meant the producer wouldn’t have to pay for the expense of recording the score with a complete orchestra.
We already had a temporary soundtrack that was mostly made of German records I had brought when we were in Paris. Orson told me to get all the medieval music I could find and sent me to the Champs Élysées to buy any suitable records. I brought all these German recordings of medieval music that were used for the temp track. Then afterwards, Lavagnino took the medieval music and reworked it into his own score for the movie. But right up until the last moment, Welles was working in the editing room with a transcription of the German recordings and then with the music Lavagnino composed for the film.
This explains why a soundtrack album for Falstaff was issued by CAM in Italy when the film first came out there. CAM also licensed a LP for release on the Fontana Records label in the UK, under the title of Chimes at Midnight. Presumably, CAM also attempted to get an American record company interested in putting out a soundtrack LP, but obviously, there was very little interest.
Luckily, CAM reissued the soundtrack on CD in 1993 and it is now available as a digital download at Amazon, for only $6.99 HERE.
Rather ironically, it appears that as with Othello, Lavagnino received very little money for writing the score for Chimes at Midnight, since the producer was running out of funds. However Lavagnino contributed a brilliant and beautiful score for Welles's masterpiece. Listening to it again, I was especially taken by the elegiac and haunting track Lavagnino composed for the death of Hotspur, entitled "Mystical Choir." I also found it quite annoying that the CD places the tracks in a seemingly random order. Why, for instance would anyone want to hear "The Funeral of Falstaff" as the fourth track on the CD, instead of where it should be placed, as the final track? Presumably this is done on soundtracks to give the listener a more balanced overall experience, but I always find that hearing the cues in their proper order, following how they appeared in the film, provides for a far more satisfying experience.
So, for anyone who wants to download and burn a CD of Falstaff with the tracks in their correct order, here is the sequence they should be placed in.
I have listed the tracks as they appear on the CD first, with the titles translated into English, followed by the tracks in the order they should be listened too, based on their appearance in the movie.
In conclusion, it should be noted that Francesco Lavagnino worked on a third Welles film, also based on Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice. Once again there was no money to pay Lavagnino, but it appears that didn't phase him in the least. Several excerpts from his score for The Merchant of Venice can be heard in the documentary about Welles in Italy, Roseabella.
FALSTAFF CD version of the tracks:
1. Main Title (Festive Opening)
2. Intermezzo Interval
3. Old Aria
4. Funeral Of Falstaff
5. Trumpets & Tambourine
6. Rustic Search
7. Ancient Love Canticle
8. Mystic Choir
9. Tavern Dance
10. Serene Pastoral
11. Village Festival (Festive Reprise)
12. Battlefield Of Death
13. Arabesque Intermezzo
14. Archaic Choir 1
15. Archaic Choir 2
16. Drinking Song 1
17. Drinking Song 2
18. Battlefield Vigil Song
19. Allegro Coramuse
FALSTAFF Tracks by their appearance in the film:
1. Prologue: Arabesque Intermezzo (We Have Heard the Chimes at Midnight)
2. Festive Opening (Main Title)
3. First Drinking Song (Planning Gadshill Robbery)
4. Trumpets and Tambourines (Hotspur’s Bath)
5. Drinking Song (Gadshill Robbery)
6. Intermezzo Interval (Tavern Play)
7. Archaic Choir 1 (Doll and Falstaff )
8, Festive Village (Preparations for war)
9. Archaic Choir 2 (Falstaff arrives at Shallows house)
10. Allegro Coramuse (Hotspur Prepares)
11. Camp Vigil before the Battle (Worcester’s deception)
12. Battlefield of Death
13. Mystical Choir (The death of Hotspur)
14. Rustic Search (Where is the Prince of Wales?)
15. Ancient Love Canticle (Oh Gentle Sleep)
16. Old Aria (Falstaff’s letter to Hal)
17. Tavern Dance (Hal’s Decision)
18. Serene Pastoral (Hal’s Farewell / Falstaff’s Farewell to Doll)
19. Funeral of Falstaff / End Credits