Sunday, May 17, 2015

9: Nessun Dorma - Puccini/Luciano Pavarotti

Apparently it was Des Lynam himself who selected this to be the BBC theme music for their World Cup football (soccer) coverage in 1990, which was held in Italy. And many gentlemen of my age will always love this tune and associate it, almost exclusively, with England getting to the semi-finals, Lineker's goals, Gazza's tears, Platt's last-minute winner against Belgium and Chris Waddle blasting his penalty over the bar to knock England out and send West Germany through to the final. Would we think so highly of this tune had England crashed out in the group stage?

Hard to say. But that's moot because it propelled Nessum Dorma and Pavarotti to the forefront of national consciousness - reaching number two in the pop singles chart - which in turn brought the track and the man to international attention, so much so that by the 1994 World Cup the Three Tenors (Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti) were at the opening ceremony. But it's not about the history.

And it's not about the lyrics, although reading a translation you can see how it fits with the tune and can be inspriational. But the tune itself, the melody, the slow build and final triumphant crescendo, is truly one of the great pieces of music I've ever heard. And as I'm going to say several times over the top ten over the next few entries, it's not a trivial task just to push some buttons, create a big musical crescendo and boom, it works. To craft a really powerful crescendo you have to EARN it - and Puccini's writing over the rest of the song is carefully, lovingly constructed to both allow and justify the final build and crescendo. That is a very hard task, and it does take some serious musical genius to achieve it without it seeming at best overblown (I'm looking accusingly in your direction, Wagner) or at worst totally outplaced.

Puccini gets it right. So does Pavarotti. And so did Des Lynam.

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