Culture Magazine

Maurizio Malagnini, an Italian in Paradise - Interview with the Composer of "the Paradise" Soundtrack

By Mariagrazia @SMaryG

MAURIZIO MALAGNINI,  AN ITALIAN IN PARADISE - INTERVIEW WITH THE COMPOSER OF Are you enjoying The Paradise on BBC One or Masterpiece PBS? Have you noticed how beautiful its soundtrack is? My guest today is the composer of the wonderful music accompanying Denise and Moray's story. His name is Maurizio Malagnini. He  is an Italian composer based in London whose work spans drama, animation, documentaries. His music has been broadcast internationally on the main European networks BBC1, BBC2, ITV, MTV, SKY, RAI. He has produced his scores for the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, L'Ensemble dell'Opera di Roma and his own ensemble, Cinema Paradiso. 
Maurizio has composed scores for popular BBC Series such as "The Body Farm" and The Paradise (Series 1 and 2). Could this lovely costume series be the same without his brilliant score?  I’m sure you have noticed how good the soundtrack for Denise and Moray’slove story is! Are you ready to meet its composer? Welcome Maurizio Malagnini at Fly High and enjoy our little chat below. By the way, don't forget that The Paradise series 2 goes on BBC1 every Sunday night and, if you live in the US,  season 1 is going to end soon on PBS Masterpiece


Maurizio Malagnini rehearsing with the BBC Concert Orchestra

What’s the life of an Italian living in London like? Hard? Very hard? Not hard at all? I mean, are there things you miss terribly or can you easily cope with the differences ?
I have been living in London for 7 years and I love it. The city is modern, vibrant, energetic and full of art, culture and music: yet still being rich of traditions and a secular identity that is typical of European cities. Since I arrived I have come to the impression that in London it doesn’t matter so much where you come from but what you can do: this is exactly what a young artist is looking for! There are things I miss though, especially the sunny weather in Spring and the food. After all it’s a very short flight from London to Milan and I fly back to Italy 5/6 times per year. I admit the first year I came back to Italy 18 times!


Emun Elliott as Mr Moray

You know I got to you looking for more information about one of my favorite period series, The Paradise. You composed the soundtrack for series 1 and 2. I really loved your music while watching the first series, before even knowing it was by an Italian composer (allow me some national pride). What is this experience like?
I have loved every single moment of composing for The Paradise, it is such a privilege to work on such a fantastic project. It all started with a telephone call from Simon Lewis, the producer of the show.  He told me they were working on an adaptation from Zola’s Au bonheur des dames and sent me the scripts for the first two episodes. Two weeks later I had already 10 minutes of music to play him, with all the main themes that are now part of the show! Since then I have done 96 hours of orchestral recordings, most of them with the BBC Concert Orchestra and we have recorded approximately 10 hours of music for the show.
Have you got a favorite character, moment, episode in The Paradise?
I really love the entire show to bits.  What I love about this project is that I feel moved every single time I sit down to write. I feel the emotions of the characters and I put them down into music: I become part of their hopes and dreams and I contribute in painting the colors of their world. Sometime I dream with them, hope with them, love with them and when this happens the music becomes more authentic and it arrives straight to the heart of the audience.  


Maurizio at the 20th Fox Studios 

How different is composing the soundtrack for a movie or TV series from just composing music? I guess you must work at your music after watching the images you are asked to comment. How difficult is that?
Basically when you are working for film the computer helps you to synchronize the music with the movie. So the composer can watch the film and watch the scene and listen to the dialog while creating the music. When I write for film every single line and word in the dialog is taken into account in composing the music. Sometimes though, I like to just think about the story and compose without watching the film: often these ideas are stronger and give more character to the film. I think if you are composing a good score the music should have a life of its own and it should still breathe without the film. None of my main themes come to me in front of a computer in my studio - I’d rather have a melodic idea on a train or walking in a park or while I am cooking!


Joanna Vanderham and Emun Elliott in a scene from series 1

I think you did a brilliant job, amazing. I Love  all the themes you composed for this fabulous series but my favorite is the theme commenting on Denise/Moray scenes.  Has it got a special history?
When I saw Moray drawing Denise’s portrait at the beginning of the second episode I thought that needed a new theme, I realized that would have to be their love theme. For the first time it was obvious that Moray was falling in love with Denise. It made me think immediately to the last time I fell in love: do you remember the last time you fell in love?  For me it was an afternoon in Spring under a cherry tree. When I composed the theme for Denise and Moray I was thinking about that moment, that calm and tranquility. Once the theme was there I just had to let it grow, following the story: it was natural for this idea to find fulfillment in the last scene, “The Final Kiss”.



What was the theme you most liked recording for The Paradise?
Definitely the piece “The Final Kiss” (the last track of the soundtrackalbum) composed for the last sequence of Season One was really special to compose and to record. The entire studio was thrilled after the first reading by the BBC Concert Orchestra. I felt really moved when I watched the entire scene without the music: it is a big responsibility because you know that 6 million fans (only in the UK) are looking forward to that scene, that final kiss. It all came as a big crescendo, until the final kiss between Moray and Denise: looking back on it, I had only 6 hours to compose that scene.  I think that’s an example of something magical happening between music and film.
What can music add to a movie/series?
It depends on the show and the importance and space the producer gives to the composer. Simon Lewis thinks that in ‘The Paradise’ the music is like an additional character, always ready to support the story from the background or to play an important role when needed. I think the themes of the Paradise are like old friends, and I realized this when I started recording season 2: I have really enjoyed writing variations of the themes.  The music has evolved together with the characters. What about the soundtrack for the new series? Is it new?
Definitely not completely new - most themes form part of the identity of the series. But I can say that the music is different, the score has grown up together with the characters and their stories, particularly Denise.  When we met her at the opening of Season One she was a little girl coming from the country side: now she is different, less of a girl more of a woman. The music will reflect this and other changes. Another difference is the use of the accordion, a new instrument to the score of Paradise 2 that makes its debut from the first piece at the opening of the show.  


The BBC Concert Orchestra conducted  by Jeff  Atmajian recording The Paradise soundtrack - photo © François Sechet

When did you decide you wanted to be a musician and especially a composer?
I decided to become a composer after watching “Cinema Paradiso” when I was ten. I was fascinated by the story of this young man leaving the small village to go to the big city to create films. That’s exactly what I did 15 years later!  Morricone’s music for the film was simply amazing: the last scene, the long kiss sequence is breathtaking - I have seen it so many times and everytime it feels like the first time.  It was a privilege to grow up in Italy in the 1980s listening to Morricone’s music in so many TV Shows: Marco Polo, La Piovra, Secret of Sahara, The Betrothed (I promessi Sposi). I didn’t realize at the time but we were getting the same quality in Italian TV that Americans were getting in feature films such as The Untouchables, The Mission, Casualties of War, all composed by Morricone.
Have you got a composer or film composer you particularly admire?
Surely Ennio Morricone has an amazing skill to create a piece of music that embodies the entire soul of a film in a few notes: great examples are “Once upon a time in America” and “The Mission”. Sometimes he can repeat a piece of music several times in a film, without many variations, and it always works: this is because his music is so connected to the film that you might even wonder if the film was created for the music or the music for the film? I think Ennio is a great composer.
What  do you like watching at the cinema or on TV?
I love period dramas! I love Fellini, Kubrick, I am a fan of Joe Wright and Dario Marianelli. I like the three colors by Kieslowski, the film “Blue” is one of my favorites. Amadeus is another film that made me think I wanted to be a composer. But I also love animation and the lightness in watching a cartoon: after all I started my career with the maestro Bruno Bozzetto, the greatest cartoonist Italy has ever produced.
Can you watch a film without being distracted by your professional ear? I mean, can you just enjoy a movie without being there analysing the relation images/soundtrack all the time?
Yes, I can! Especially if the music is good I don’t think too much about it and I enjoy the film. I get distracted only if the music is really bad! I admit sometimes I go to the cinema to listen to the score: I would never miss a note written by John Williams!
What’s next for Maurizio Malagnini, the man and the composer?
I have received a couple of offers and I will restart reading scripts and pitching for new projects.
Many thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Maurizio. Best wishes (in bocca al lupo?) for all your future projects. Fingers crossed for The Paradise soundtrack CD and for ... a season 3!
Praise for The Paradise soundtrack
Rob Smedley, Cultbox, "The Paradise soundtrack album is So good, that it is probably the finest album of TV music you'll be able to buy this year." Richard Buxton, Tracksounds  “The quality of MALAGNINI’S music is to such a degree, and so consistently so, that it is impossible not to find oneself swept up in the moment, effortlessly transported back in time.” Kaya Savas, "The Paradise is a brilliant masterpiece of musical storytelling".
You can buy The Paradise Original Soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

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