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Nino ROTA (1911–1979)
Complete Music for Viola/Piano and Violin/Piano
Intermezzo for viola and piano (1945) [8:57]
Viola Sonata in C (1945) [16:39]
Viola Sonata in G (1934–1935 rev 1970) [13:26]
Violin Sonata in G (1936-1937) [15:41]
Improwiso, Un Diavolo Sentimentale (A Sentimental Devil) (1969) [5:51]
Improwiso, Amanti senza Amore (Lovers Without Love/Prelude to Madness) (1947) [4:10]
Marco Fornaciari (violin and viola), Gabriele Baldocci (piano)
rec. April 2006, Lonigo, Vicenza, Italy. DDD
ARTS MUSIC 47718-8 [65:03]

Although best known for his music for film, Nino Rota gave as much time to the concert hall as he did to the cinema. This side of his work is still less well known to the general listening public. Recently, both Chandos and BIS have given us valuable issues of Rota’s concert music including some of the pieces recorded on this disk. This is however the first recording of Rota’s complete music for violin and viola, with piano – and this is also Arts Music’s second issue of Rota’s music (see review of orchestral works).
With one exception, all these works come from the earliest part of Rota’s career, and their range is quite remarkable. The opening Intermezzo, for instance, starts as a noble, elegiac, song then suddenly becomes fast and passionate before returning to the music of the opening which is all the richer for its experience. What a superb work it is. A real winner and a most valuable addition to the, still too slender, viola repertoire.
The three Sonatas each follow the usual format – fastish outer movements surrounding a slow movement, usually of a passionate nature. None of them outstays its welcome; in fact all of them leave me wanting more. There is a stateliness and nobility about the Sonatas; they are assured pieces of work, confident in their language and very rewarding to listen to. The C major Viola Sonata is quiet and intimate whilst the G major Sonata is more extrovert. On a couple of occasions I was momentarily reminded of Elgar! - then the moment has passed. There is a feel of the countryside in the music of the kind we find in much English music of this period. The Violin Sonata also has this pastoral feeling – the piano writing in the first movement reminding me of some of Ivor Gurney’s fascinating accompaniments to his songs. But please do not expect English pastoral music. These works are all very much Rota’s own. I merely make the comparisons to give some idea of what to expect.
The final two, film-derived, pieces are totally different. The Improwiso, Un Diavolo Sentimentale is a racy little affair, a breathless scamper, whilst Improwiso, Amanti senza Amore (Lovers Without Love/Prelude to Madness) is, in part, a marvellous over-the-top piece of ersatz gypsy indulgence, with a fast, diabolical, coda.  
All the works display Rota’s fastidious craftsmanship, being gratefully laid out for the instruments. They receive very fine performances. These are extremely attractive works which, although they don’t plumb great depths of emotion, have more than sufficient heart-felt music within their small scale.
The notes, whilst not extensive – six pages accommodate English, French and Italian text and photographs of the performers and composer – are helpful and the sound is crisp and clear. However, has anyone any idea what the picture on the front of the booklet is supposed to be? Never mind. It goes without saying that this is a must for all lovers of Nino Rota’s music. In addition it will appeal strongly to anyone interested in well crafted, tuneful music; we badly need this kind of music these days.
Thank you Arts Music for giving us our second helping of Rota and, at the risk of sounding greedy, please, I want some more.
Bob Briggs


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