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Nino ROTA (1911–1979)
Sinfonia sopra una Canzone d’Amore (1947/1972) [29:31]
Concerto-Soirée for piano and orchestra (1961-62) [19:44]

Benedetto Lupo (piano)
Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana/Massimo de Bernart
rec. Palermo, Italy, July 1991
Programme notes in English, German, French and Italian

ARTS 475962 [49:15]


Experience Classicsonline

A cursory glance through Nino Rota’s credits as a composer of great film music scores reveals him to be the very centre of the European film-making tradition: The Glass Mountain (1949), La dolce vita (1960), Il Gattopardo (1963), (1963), Romeo and Juliet (1968), The Godfather, Parts I & II (1972 and 1974), Amarcord (1973) and Death on the Nile (1978), to name just a few of more than 150. This is even more remarkable when one learns that the great Italian film-maker Federico Fellini employed Rota to write the score to every film he made from the time of their first collaboration on Lo sceicco blanco (The White Sheik) in 1952 until Rota’s death in April 1979 caused The Orchestra Rehearsal to be his last film score. Rota also wrote notable music for directors such as Zeffirelli, Visconti and Coppola, for whose film The Godfather, Part II Rota’s score won an Oscar.


Rota had studied at the Malan Conservatorio with Ildebrando Pizzetti, with whose music Rota’s works share a wonderful post-Romantic sweep and richness. Rota made no distinctions between his music for film and that for the concert hall or theatre. There is a fair amount of cross-fertilisation between Rota’s symphonic works and those for film. The Sinfonia sopra una canzone d’amore which opens this attractive CD was written in 1947, although only orchestrated and performed as late as 1972. Rota ‘borrowed’ three of the Sinfonia’s four movements in film scores for The Glass Mountain and Il Gattopardo.


The Sinfonia sopra una Canzone d’Amore could be described as a neo-classical symphony. It is certainly cast in a very traditional mould. There’s a relaxed sonata-form movement whose main theme curiously reminded me of Smetana’s Vltava. This is followed by a rustic scherzo-like movement. A beautiful Andante sostenuto forms the heart of the symphony and is a testament to Rota’s remarkable melodic and harmonic gifts. After this comes a slightly uneasy finale.


Rather lighter in character and perhaps more recognisable to those familiar with Rota’s film music is the Concerto-Soirée for Piano and Orchestra. The CD booklet gives the date of composition as 1958 but other sources – including the official Nino Rota website – give it as 1961-62. The booklet also claims the piece to be “one of the most demanding pieces of piano literature of our century”. Surely not the piece I was listening to! I checked the original Italian text by Albert Erlöser and found a mistranslation of the Italian word impegnativi, which means ‘demanding of attention’ or, simply, ‘important’ perhaps, although I’m not sure that claim is valid either. What we have in essence is a 20-minute, five-movement divertimento for piano and orchestra full of attractive and idiomatic writing. The beautiful Romanza third movement later found its way into the score for the 1966 ballet La Strada, itself based largely on music from the 1954 Fellini film. Music from the final Can-can – a rather darker movement than one might expect from such a title – is to be found in the score to the film .


The pianist Benedetto Lupo, winner of the bronze medal in the 1988 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, was mentored by Rota as a young student and so one would expect him to offer a unique insight into this music. He certainly plays with great fluidity and panache and is perfectly accompanied by the Sicilian Orchestra under a rather noisy conductor Massimo de Bernart who seems prone to grunting in a way I found annoying on repeated listenings. The 1991 recording sounds slightly studio-bound to my ears but is fine enough. A shame that Arts decided not to fill the CD further; 49 minutes is rather short measure and there are plenty of other works that could have been added to further the cause of Rota’s concert music. 

Derek Warby 

see also Review by Bob Briggs





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