Author Topic: Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai  (Read 977 times)


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Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai
« on: April 27, 2019, 08:43:16 PM »
Hey gang!
I've recently come across two foreign-language articles about Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai, which helps shed some light on these two otherwise somewhat enigmatic composers. There are also some photos I have never seen before!
I have transcribed both articles, and taken a stab at translating them to English. I am unfortunately far from fluent in these two languages, so if anyone else would like to improve on my translations, feel free. My transcriptions as well as photos of the original articles are both included below.

no author listed, PZC (Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant), 21 March 1974, p. 22:


"Composing, that's how I want to make a living"

HILVERSUM - Jan Stoeckart, aka Julius Steffaro aka Jack Trombey aka Peter Milray, feels like a free and happy man. Since he severed the artistically tight ties with the state broadcaster January 1st (he was a trombonist with the NOS-Promenade Orkest for 23 years) he has been exclusively involved in composing, and his heart is overjoyed.
The 46-year-old Hilversum musician had some trouble accepting that abroad, in particular in the United Kingdom, he is a celebrated composer, but in his home country, his city, his own orchestra, he’s considered a number?.
"It ate me up inside. That I am little known in the Netherlands is a bit my fault. I do not like publicity, it’s not something I’m working with. This is my first interview, can you believe that? I want to be well known, but I also want that to be due to the quality of my music ”.


"And it was successful in England. Jack Trombey is a household name in the world of entertainment music. There, a piece of mine, Eye Level, has been at the top of the charts for five weeks. When I got off the plane in London, I heard everyone whistling my tune. Could you imagine that feeling? And then you come back to the studio in Hilversum, and it’s back to the rut of the same studio, the same orchestra and the same people you were dealing with before.”
In recent years, Jan Stoeckart has tried to get higher up with NOS to improve his self-esteem. That was unsuccessful. "I really did everything for them. For the last two years I applied seriously for the position of sound engineer, but they did not want me, they did not think I was good enough. I find this ridiculous; I've been in recording studios hundreds of times in the UK."
The decision to go independent was preceded by a long period of reflection. Was it financially justified to exchange the stable salary and social benefits of a fixed broadcasting job for a risky career as a composer? Stoeckart did it anyway, in part because he does not consider himself a performing musician. “My passion is composing, that’s how I want to make a living.”
He has also played trombone much less this year. "Playing has become more of a hobby for me. I sometimes fall in with the Promenade Orkest, or step in to strengthen performances with amateur bands.”
Stoeckart was born in Amsterdam. There he first went through the HBS [high school], because his father initially saw no future in a musical career for his son. After finishing, he was allowed to apply for the conservatory. After one year in the Overijssels Philharmonisch Orkest, he joined NOS. He started composing at the age of 12, when he wrote an awkward arrangement for the school orchestra. He also continued to compose in his broadcasting job, where he developed his skill without ever taking composition lessons.

Julius Steffaro

Julius Steffaro was his first pseudonym, and under that name, which he has now renounced (in the Netherlands he only wants to be the successful “Jack Trombey”), he wrote orchestral works for the Promenade Orkest and Metropole Orkest: "Unterhaltungsmusik", as it’s called in Germany; music set between good entertainment music and semi-classical.
In the meantime, his star began to rise in England. As “Jack Trombey” he wrote everything from symphonic works to big band music. He made about 50 pieces a year and in that mass of works, his piece Eye Level suddenly became a hit.

"Eye level"

"I was lucky that this melody became the tune of a very popular TV series. Thousands of people called in after the first airing, asking what kind of music it was - and that is how the ball started rolling. 22 different recordings were made of Eye Level. A million records were sold of the original, which has been top five hit for five weeks."
His second English pseudonym was a tactical move not to overload the market with Trombey sounds. In the meantime, it was not so well known in our own country. As Julius Steffaro (a name that apparently did not appeal to the public) he wrote music for, among other things, the television series Floris, for all Sinterklaas-musicals by Mies Bouhuys and when he was commisioned by the VPRO to re-orchestrate Roverssymfonie.

Steffaro also composed classical pieces. For example, a Dutch overture, nicknamed In de Gecroonde Leerse, written for VARA, and "Learning about the Orchestra", a kind of Dutch counterpart to Benjamin Britten’s famous "A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra". This instructive work – to show children the tools of a symphony orchestra – hardly got off the ground and after the premiere was only played in Overijssel.
"Steffaro is dead and buried. Long live Jack Trombey", says Jan Stoeckart.
As proof of that, the album he is currently working on in Luc Ludolph's studio in Nederhorst den Berg, De Nationale Brassband led by Maarten Boekel plays an entire LP with Trombey tunes.
"At a total of 15 compositions I would like to call it happy music. It is intended as something new in the field of brass band music; a different style, a different atmosphere. Not just oompah, but something cheerful, something new, something good”.

Original article (Dutch)
My transcription (pdf)

Peter Krassa, The Limited Edition Nr. 015, January 1997, p. 6:

A composer in the shadows

Bruno Nicolai, longtime companion of Ennio Morricone, would have turned 71 next May. His sudden passing six years ago remained virtually unnoticed in his native Italy.

By Peter Krassa

He would have turned seventy on May 26th. Unfortunately, he will not experience this birthday anymore. Bruno Nicolai, one of Italy's major film composers, died six years ago after a long, serious illness at the age of 66.
Nicolai's musical career was closely linked for long stretches with that of his much more prominent compatriot Ennio Morricone. Like the inventor of the spaghetti western sound, whose C’ERA UNA VOLTA IL WEST or PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI wrote film music history, Bruno Nicolai for several years studied alongside his friend Ennio at the prestigious Accademia Nazionale di S. Cecilia in Rome. Both of them had famous role models who taught them: Gioffredo Petrassi, while an aged gentleman, is still highly esteemed in music circles as a pedagogue and exemplary film composer.
While Morricone instrumentally turned his attention mainly to the equipment that his father had already preferred as a musician - the trumpet - Bruno Nicolai devoted himself to piano and organ.
Aldo Mantia, his immediate teacher, trained him to be an outstanding organist during his student years - and Petrassi taught Bruno (as well as his colleague Ennio) all the skills needed for a gifted musician to succeed as a composer.

At the age of 24, Nicolai completed his music studies at the conservatory before gaining practical experience. First, he earned his living (like so many of his fellow students) as a bar pianist, before the young man received his first commitment: he was brought to the Teatro Nazionale in Rome. His first stage music was created there in the following years, and the busy musician eventually composed for other theater groups as well. For Nicolai, this meant a tremendous enrichment of his professional experience, as he had a unique opportunity to work with later-famous directors such as Luciano Visconti, Giorgio Strehler and Marco Ferreri.

Bruno Nicolai's first film music was written around 1953, even if this compositional work remained quite unnoticed. The film scored by him had been turned by the creators to a kind of experimental film and therefore achieved virtually no attention from the public. At the beginning of the sixties, the now 37-year-old musician finally joined the film industry. For Nino Oliviero, Nicolai in 1963 arranged his successful documentary set MONDO CANE NO. 2. In the same year, he even became a partner of Oliviero’s and together with him wrote the music for IL PELO NEL MONDO in the style of MONDO CANE. In 1964, Bruno Nicolai also started working with television. Again, it was a documentary (this time, however, artistically demanding), which the up-and-coming composer scored with his music: VITA DI MICHELANGELO was the name of the TV production with the well-known actor Gian Maria Volonte as narrator. Director Alberto Di Martino turned to Bruno Nicolai in 1965 and commissioned him to compose the film music for his western spectacle 100,000 DOLLARI PER RINGO. This was the beginning of a now continuous ascent on the success ladder of compositional contracts. Nicolai's work in the field of music, however, was by no means limited to setting only the same film themes. The breadth of his musical field of influence went far beyond that. Already the next assignment demanded a complete change from him: Bruno Nicolai was required to create the musical background as well as the songs for a christmas musical for children. The versatile composer was also up to this task. For Rossano Brazzi, who together with an American production staged the fairytale film THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T (and also played a major role in it), Nicolai composed several enchanting melodies, which were then also released on a long-playing record.
But already here it became clear what was to become almost a "trademark" of the Italian film composer: Nicolai avoided any kind of publicity. His name was hidden in the opening credits behind a pseudonym. Nicolai called himself - perhaps because of the English pronunciation - "Ray Carter"*, which was also how it appeared on the LP. Bruno Nicolai did not attach much importance to making a special appearance as a composer in public. "Yes, I have scored different films under various pseudonyms," he frankly admitted at the time to a journalist. However, he did not want to divulge which aliases these were. "That's why I used the respective pseudonyms," was Nicolai's lapidary justification. One of these aliases have been revealed at this point: Leo Flag.
Bruno Nicolai was not only active as a composer during his intensive creative period - he also often appeared on the podium as a conductor for various colleagues of the big screen.

Above all, Ennio Morricone, who wrote film scores productively between 1964 and 1975, let his friend and former classmate at the conservatory direct the conductor’s staff at numerous studio recordings. And finally, there were also joint engagements for various film projects between the two musicians. IL MERCENARIO, ANTICRISTO, DALLE ARDENNE ALL’INFERNO or CI RISIAMO, VERO PROVVIDENZA? These are just four such projects, where Nicolai and Morricone worked together in compositional terms.

International film productions also contacted Bruno Nicolai. He created scores for such well-known directors as the French Jean-Louis Trintignant, the Spaniard Jess Franco and the American Oscar winner Nathan D. Juran. Nicolai also worked for Italian opera director Ermanno Olmi.
Collaboration between the two Petrassi students Nicolai and Morricone also flourished. Their symbiosis was so tight over the years that a few record geeks even had some identity problems. After all, there was even a rumour among these film music enthusiasts that the name of Nicolai and Morricone was actually one and the same person; one issue could however not be clarified among the collectors: Which of the two names is the right one?
This misunderstanding was clarified at the latest in 1975. It was the year in which the collaboration of the two study friends ended unexpectedly, Bruno Nicolai and Ennio Morricone separated once and for all. This abrupt departure was preceded by an internal quarrel between the two sensitive individuals whose cause has never been known. Neither Nicolai nor Morricone were (and are) willing to disclose details about this quarrel that forever divorced them.
Bruno Nicolai, who had previously only sporadically stepped into the limelight of promotional events, withdrew almost completely from the sphere of influence of the media. He devoted himself to the more intense of his theater music, but worked for film and television productions in between. He also paid close attention to the more intensive care of his own company's record production EDI PAN. It still exists and has made it its mission (after the death of its founder) to market Nicolai's musical works - especially his soundtracks - in contemporary CD presses in the record business.
Two film scores of the deceased appeared in '96: JUSTINE (PAN CDS 2503) and L'ONORATA FAMIGLIA (PAN CDS 2504). Bruno Nicolai composed them in the years 1968 and 1973. He has scored more than seventy film and TV productions over the course of three and a half decades. And although he was not able to reach the fame of an Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota or Miklos Rozsa, within Italy’s borders, he was - like Riz Ortolani, Francesco De Masi, Oscar winner Luis E. Bacalov, Carlo Rustichelli, Piero Piccioni, Carlo Savina or Gianni Ferrio - one of the great Italian film composers.

A particularly honorable task was given to Nicolai in the last phase of his composing career: he was tasked with the direction and presentation of the International Music Festival of Venice.
Nicolai has never made a special fuss of all his life. "I avoid giving interviews whenever possible," he once told a curious journalist, "and I'm also unwilling to discuss certain discrete issues - especially those that affect my private life - in public".
As modest and inconspicuous as he had lived and worked artistically, so unappreciated in the media was his tragic demise. Bruno Nicolai, afflicted with an incurable cancer, died on 16 August 1991. It is the sixth anniversary of his passing next summer. In a sense, he has become a kind of "cult” composer for many collectors of specific film music. With them, Bruno Nicolai, a master who seldom emerged from his own shadow, has remained a lasting one.

*Note: This is incorrect. Ray Carter is a separate person who wrote the songs featured in the film.
Original article (German): 1, 2
My transcription (pdf)
« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 08:50:15 PM by Mr »

Lord Thames

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Re: Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2019, 10:34:22 PM »
Very interesting - I hope Jack Trombey got the fulfilment he was looking for in the end!

The brass LP he mentions appears to be this one:


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Re: Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2019, 03:09:05 AM »
Well done, Mr. Thanks for sharing these.
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Re: Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2019, 06:17:04 AM »
Wow, that must have been quite some work! I admire the dedication. That's the spirit! Thanks!


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Re: Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2019, 09:52:37 AM »
Great to read about 'Jack Trombey'- thank you.  Of course, 'Eye Level' becoming number 1 in the UK charts was down to being used as the theme for 'Van Der Valk', set in Amsterdam; so maybe Jan's dutchness found it's way home.

Your Pal Doug

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Re: Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2019, 12:24:25 AM »
Thanks you Mr so much for translating & sharing.
Wonderful Jack Trombey article!

YP Doug


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Re: Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2019, 11:33:19 PM »
Thanks a million, Mr. A very interesting reading!


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Re: Two articles: Jack Trombey and Bruno Nicolai
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2019, 09:01:23 PM »
A question Mr do you have any idea where are the sheet music of Bruno Nicolai? you who handles good information.

I would appreciate any information