[Monday Notes no. 151] Piero Piccioni was a great film music composer, he wrote dozens of soundtracks working both with Francesco Rosi in the more demanding cinema and with Alberto Sordi in the great Italian comedy. We analyse his Samba Fortuna from the film Il Prof. Dr Guido Tersilli primario della clinica Villa Celeste convenzionato con la mutua.
In the film directed by Luciano Salce, an outstanding Alberto Sordi plays the shameless doctor Guido Tersilli. The film’s main theme is played to the rhythm of a march or a samba and accompanies the team of doctors reviewing the clinic’s patients.
The piece begins with a pedal, throughout the first part the bass always plays the same note, Eb. The theme always moves on the scale of the key E flat. At the end of part A we see a plagal cadence IV I, Abm6 Eb, in order to come back to the chord of the tonic.
In the B part the piece modulates to the IV degree Ab, and then returns to the tonic with a typical turn around, the descending Gm7 Gbdim7 Fm7 Bb7.
Samba Fortuna is a simple but extremely good piece, it is hard to imagine a more appropriate music for describing the triumphal march in which Guido Tersilli detects the rich patients, to be prescribed long and expensive cures, and the poor ones to be declared immediately cured.
After ups and downs in which Tersilli’s clinic risks bankruptcy, the ingenious doctor decides to convert it into a beauty clinic and invents the hilarious slogan:
“La vecchiaia e la bruttezza sono malattie dalle quali si può e si deve guarire”.
(Old age and ugliness are diseases from which one can and must recover)
Often the great composers of film music owe their celebrity to pieces written for dramatic, serious films. It is easier to pay attention to music in a dramatic moment than in a comic scene.
However, even the soundtracks of great Italian comedy are often masterpieces, composed by authentic masters such as Piero Piccioni, Armando Trovajoli, Piero Umiliani, Manuel De Sica, Ennio Morricone, Nicola Piovani and others.
In dozens of films and without us realising it, Piero Piccioni’s music has often accompanied us while we have laughed watching a classic comedy. Laughing and listening to music are certainly two good antidotes against old age and ugliness, while we wait for Prof. Dr Guido Tersilli to find the definitive cure for these afflictions.
Until next Monday!
Download the lead sheet of Samba Fortuna – Piero Piccioni