Un bambino di nome Gesu' - Piero Piccioni
“Un Bambino di Nome Gesù” [A Child Called Jesus] is a two-part mini-series directed by Franco Rossi for Italian television. Released in April 1988, it narrates with particular sensibility and intimacy various episodes in Jesus’ childhood and the relationship with his parents. Based on the New Testament Apocrypha the story recreates a little known period in Christ’s life, beginning after the flight to Egypt, when Joseph, Mary and their child lived in a village on the border with Palestine.
Franco Rossi, a filmmaker specialising in TV productions, picks up the story after the family’s flight to escape Herod’s attempt to murder Jesus while still an infant. The script focuses on the family bonds and everyday life, although using a language replete with symbols readily graspable for the audience.
Filming took place in 1987 on the outskirts of Tunis, and ran for over fifteen weeks. Featuring 2,500 extras, it was a big production with a substantial budget, especially bearing in mind the period when it was filmed. Among the main actors are Irene Papas and also Alessandro Gassman in one of his first roles, playing Jesus as an adult.
The music was commissioned to Piero Piccioni, who had already worked with the director on previous projects, such as “Giovinezza, giovinezza” (1969) and “Quo Vadis?” (1985) and would work with him again in “Si sarà un giorno (Il giovane Pertini)” (1993).
On this occasion he created an elegant soundtrack with some of the most beautiful and redolent melodies in his career, in which the maestro’s unmistakable style is patent in every note. He composed captivating music, almost hypnotic in some moments, underscored with highly precise orchestration in which the string section is of paramount importance.
The fact that the main role is played by a child led Piccioni to opt for a small orchestra, to which he added an impeccable choral base with the intervention of soloists at certain moments. With this ensemble he created tracks which were simple yet charged with emotion and sensibility, conveying a heightened lyricism which can be perceived on a first listening while at once consummately matching the images and the story unfolding on the screen. The most melodious passages highlight instruments such as the sweet flute, the oboe or the clarinet, which gracefully accompany the strings to instil a matchless sensibility and warmth that helps us to engage even closer with the figure of the Child Jesus.
The recording captures a highly rewarding work. The soft intimate tone of the music immediately hooks the listener’s attention, conjuring up, even without the aid of the images, the life of a loving affectionate family far removed from the public life Jesus would lead some years later.
The soundtrack had never been released until now, although Piero Piccioni himself had planned an LP with 16 tracks that never saw the light of day. Now increased to 31 tracks and a duration in excess of 60 minutes, this release contains all the passages from the planned record as well as the rest of the score, showcasing Piccioni’s most charming side.
This is a true musical gem to be listened to again and again, abandoning ourselves to the evocative power of a score that combines childhood tenderness with a sound bordering on the mystical and the religious, heralding the life lying ahead of Jesus.