Nino Rota was the John Williams of his day, an extremely
talented film composer whose cinema work seemed to disqualify him in
the eyes of some from being a "proper" composer. He wrote
in a pleasant, lightweight idiom that has the same feel as the work
of his contemporary Jean Françaix. The sense of motion that served
his cinema work so well (predominantly for Fellini) carries into his
other repertoire. For what it’s worth, it makes me think of a man on
a bicycle. This beautifully recorded and produced disc is most welcome,
especially as three of these works have never before been committed
The first is the least exciting. An instrument as inherently
quiet as the harp is very hard to bring into opposition with an orchestra,
and Rota never finds a convincing solution in this concerto. It is a
very pretty work, but not really memorable.
Chandos deserve a medal for services to the bassoon
repertoire. Their releases are always excellent, especially the marvellous
recordings of Popov playing the music of Gubaidulina. They have furthered
their reputation with this recording of Rota’s concerto. It is not a
concerto that escapes the stereotypical bassoon-as-cheerful-chappy idiom,
but it is at least an affectionate stereotype. Hardly profound, it is
not well known even amongst bassoonists, although I am sure many would
enjoy its good humour, especially as the technical demands are short
of virtuosic. Paolo Carlini, a player with the plummy tone characteristic
of his teacher Klauss Thünemann, captures the spirit of the piece
excellently, from the bucolic bumbling of the toccata and introspection
of the recitative. He then captures each of the finale variations (including
a Sicilienne that sounds suspiciously similar to Faure’s in Pelléas
et Mélisande) beautifully. A first rate performance.
Castel del Monte is a fine ballad for horn and orchestra,
reminiscent of the misty orchestral works of Chausson, and deserves
to be more widely heard. The members of I Virtuosi Italiani, highly
accomplished throughout, sense that this is a more substantial piece
and reserve their most finely shaded playing for this performance.
The final work here is the Trombone Concerto, the only
work previously recorded previously. Rota’s rumbustuous style serves
the trombone well, and Andrea Conti tucks into it with gusto.
The works on this disc are not profound enough to reward
repeated listening, but its virtues of simplicity and good nature make
a very pleasant treat now and again.