Nino ROTA (1911-1979)
For Violin Solo: Original Soundtracks arranged by Mauro Tortorelli
La Strada (1966) [3:16]
Lo sceicco bianco [2:35]
Prove d'orchestra [3:33]
La Dolce Vita (1959) [3:06]
Le Notti di Cabiria [3:08]
I Vitelloni [1:31]
Giulietta degli spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits): la ballerina del Circo Snap (1965) [1:44]
Il Gattopardo (The Leopard): Mazurka (1963) [2:38]
Boccaccio ’70 (1962) [2:57]
I clowns (1970) [0:53]
Otto e mezzo: passerella: finale [4:29]
Mauro TORTORELLI Fantasia in Rotazione [8:48]
Mauro Tortorelli (violin)
rec. Studio Mobile ‘I Musicanti’, Rome, undated
STRADIVARIUS STR15002 [43:41]
How do you like your film music served? Raw, with luscious strings, blood dripping straight from the soundtrack or sound stage? Maybe something a touch more aristocratic, though no less committed, via recreations of later years? What if you listened to film music through the other end of a musical telescope; what if, in fact, you were listening to a solo violin? Film music or film study? Distillation or disintegration? That’s the dilemma posed by this disc, which does precisely that.
Violinist Mauro Tortorelli has transcribed the music from Nino Rota’s films for solo fiddle. Why would one do this, especially if most of the films are Rota-Fellini collaborations and some of the most esteemed of all post-War Italian films? So many questions. One answer advanced by the note-writer is that the arrangements form a kind of suite, which begins with a Capriccio-Fantasia and ends with a fantasia of the violinist’s own devising - thus beginning and ending this putative cycle with rhapsodic fantasia. Fortunately for this argument there is a kind of thematic similarity between some of the film music – between La Strada and Lo Sceicco Bianco, for example. There are numerous nineteenth-century precedents when it comes to pure operatic music, but it’s very unusual to concentrate on the oeuvre of one single composer, certainly when it comes to the twentieth-century art of film music.
Still, I think it’s best to consider this unusual 43-minute series of arrangements as a homage from the performer to the composer in which his aim is to make purely violinistic those many themes that mark out Rota’s music. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that any transfiguration has been the result, but it’s interesting to hear a nineteenth-century preludio – in effect – start the disc with virtuosic octave flourishes. In the case of the iconic La Strada, a simple single line leads to complex elaboration before a return to the opening. Prove d’orchestra preserves some of Rota’s wit. La Dolce Vita has to be here, though Le Notti di Cabiria shows some of the jazzier influences to which Rota was exposed – though Varsity drag and the like, rather than Hard Bop, it has to be noted. There’s the balletic Giulietta degli spiriti and – in this performance, at least – the strangely Weill-like music from Boccaccio ’70. The concluding Fantasia opens rather like Casals’ Song of the Birds, disconcertingly so in fact, but cross-references earlier themes in search of that sense of defining unity.
The performances by the intrepid transcriber-soloist are fearless and highly effective. I can’t, though, see much market for these arrangements on the concert stage, nor do I think that even the most assiduously creative of buskers will find them of much use. A number are too virtuosic. Maybe they’ll send listeners back to the original soundtracks and to the films. Perhaps it’s best to see this short-measure disc as an homage from instrumentalist to composer – though in the stark world of record buying I’m not sure how persuasive a proposition this is.