NINO ROTA (1911-1979)
Piano Concerto in C (1959-60)
Piano Concerto in E Piccolo mondo antico
Giorgia Tomassi (piano)
Filharmonica della Scala Riccardo
EMI CLASSICS CDC 5 56869
I am indebted to my friend and fellow editor, Ian Lace, for introducing me
to the broader span of Rota's concert music. I knew of the film music for
Il Gattopardo but the only music I had heard was the sequence for the film
of 'Romeo and Juliet'.
Now, as each year goes by, the gaps in the Rota discography are filled. These
concertos seem to be may well be receiving their premiere recordings.
What to expect?
1959-60 was not an auspicious time in which to be writing melodic concert
music. However Rota, no doubt, underpinned by income from his film scores,
produced in his piano concerto in C a work of sun-dappled Mozartian warmth.
The velvety and slightly gauze-cloaked sound bathes the listener in a glowing
romantic aura. The music is intimate and pleasing with Tomassi's piano very
frontally recorded. Amid the lissom Mozartian style are episodes which link
with Beethoven (the idyllic rather than the revolutionary), Prokofiev and
(another contemporary rebel against the cultural predominance of the times)
Malcolm Arnold. The steady music-box pace of the middle movement will please
those who love their Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 (middle movement).
The finale is tinged with the Italianate equivalent of uproarious Soviet
The 1978 work comes across as essentially the same type of writing as the
one from almost two decades earlier. To this is added a touch of Rachmaninov
shorn of the slight hysteria which can infuse the Russian composer's music.
The middle movement communicates directly - almost a homage to Beethoven's
Emperor Concerto and the central movement of the Tchaikovsky first
piano concerto. The stony adamantine glitter of the finale seems borne of
a union between Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 (first movement and finale)
and the romance of the Prokofiev Classical Symphony.
Both works have a slightly sugared accessibility with the first concerto
being the more successful of the two. The second reminded me, in its more
strenuous moments, of the Arthur Bliss Piano Concerto (once available played
by Philip Fowke on Unicorn). Neither the Bliss nor the second Rota quite
'work' though the Bliss is more epic in mode. The Beethovenian grandeur of
the second draws attention to the very closely recorded sound image. It is,
however, exciting stuff especially in the 'big-top' blare of the finale gusted
along on a salvo of chordal 'big dippers'.
The notes are in French, German, English and Italian. They ramble somewhat
and feature a regrettable 'fest' of performer-orientated material. We needed
more about Rota.