It didn’t take me long to explore more of Nino Rota‘s concert music. In addition to the new release of his First and Second Symphonies on Chandos, I was recently sent a copy of a disc of three of Rota’s later works, performed by I Musici di Parma.
Following his years as an arthouse favorite with his Fellini scores, Rota had become an international star with his music from THE GODFATHER (1972), rare for a film composer. But that “overnight” popularity didn’t detract Rota from continuing to compose for the concert hall. Rota had obviously matured much in the years since his early symphonies, and the pieces on this disc reflect a more sophisticated harmonic language and greater depth.
The Cello Concerto No. 2 is written in the traditional three-movement form. In the opening movement, the cello alternates between passages of swiftly moving sixteenth notes and a slew of dotted rhythms to keep the pace of the allegro moderato. Rota departs from tradition in the second movement. Instead of the expected andante or adagio, the cello and orchestra engage in a delightful set of theme and variations that move seamlessly between playful and moving. Long, soaring lines in the movement proceed immediately into the triplet-laced allegro vivo of the final movement.
Conductor Enrico Bronzi also plays a mean cello and his sound is everything you could ask for in a cellist–crisp, clean, warm, and inviting. The concerto is a delightful work played with precision by Bronzi and the orchestra.
The Concerto for Strings was originally written in 1964-65, but it is the 1977 revised version that is heard on the recording. The sound of a string orchestra is unique and Rota explores all the numerous facets of these vibrant instruments throughout the four movements, while Bronzi elicits a spirited performance from the I Musici di Parma strings.
After a somber prelude in the first movement, the strings are allowed to cut loose in the 3/4 scherzo of the second movement., alternating between strumming, pizzicato, and a wicked waltz. Following a somber third movement, a burst of energy greets the frenetic Shostakovichesque allegrissimo finale.
In the Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Bronzi is back on cello, joined by clarinetist Alessandro Carbonare, and pianist Alberto Miodini. The musical forces are distributed equally throughout the work’s three movements, written in a traditional fast-slow-fast format. My ears are naturally more attuned to the clarinet part and the instrument gets to shine in the second movement in some lovely arpeggiated, soaring passages. The finale contains some humorous displays by Carbonare’s otherwise pristine clarinet tone. If I’d known this piece existed back in my clarinet days, I would have been clamoring to play it.
Once again you won’t find much of Rota the film composer in these works. Don’t expect a cohesive listening experience as the three pieces together form an odd program. Yet each work is highly individualistic and well worth hearing.
Give this disc a listen if you’re a Rota fan or if you simply appreciate good music. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.