Four miniatures and three major works make up this fascinating disk, which shows a side to Nino Rota new to me.
The Suite from Fellini’s Casanova
is a fascinating work, with music ranging from bluesy inconsequentiality to dark drama. This was a fine score for Fellini’s film and it makes a very satisfying work for piano solo. There’s an hypnotic quality to much of this music and there is much use of a rocking figure in the treble which creates a fairytale atmosphere which, at the same time, disturbs. You quite often don’t know where you are with this music and that is part of its success; to wrong-foot you. Marvellous.
The 15 Preludes
are all very short, none of them plays for more than a minute and a half, and they display a wild sense of humour, tempered by a gentleness and the occasional serious voice. Because of the brevity of the pieces, none outstays its welcome and Rota can indulge himself in trying out new musical expressions, turns of harmony and juxtapositions of material. This makes a delightful and entertaining suite of very mixed pieces yet, despite their variety, they stand together very well.
The Fantasia in G
isn’t quite as successful as the other big pieces. It’s a large-scale romantic work, serious in intent, and with a slight whiff of Debussy in the air, which doesn’t have the tight construction of the Suites, nor is the melodic material as interesting. But there is some fine music in it. I think that perhaps it simply isn’t as openly welcoming as the other two pieces.
The rest of the programme is made up of four miniatures – although, in truth, the whole disk is a collection of miniatures. Ippolito gioca
is, oddly, reminiscent of the final movement of Samuel Barber’s Excursions
in its opening gesture, recalling a hoe–down. That was a surprise, but a very pleasant one. It also pre–dates Barber’s work by about ten years. Ballo della villanotta in erba
was written as a birthday present for his Aunt and it has a delicate playfulness about it. Bagatella
is a skittish romp, with a warm-hearted middle section, whilst the little Waltz
was “presented to a lady friend from Puglia” - according to the notes, and what a delightful choice of expression - brings about a melancholic air for the close of the recital.
I have no hesitation in recommending this disk for it contains some splendid music, most, if not all, of which will be unknown to the listener. The performances by Michelangelo Carbonara feel authoritative and he plays with an unaffected and easy manner. The notes are good, too.