Nino ROTA (1911-1979)
Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano (1973) [15:23]
Clarinet Sonata in D Major (1945) [11:58]
Allegro danzante for clarinet and piano (1977) [3:34]
Lo Spiritismo nella vecchia casa (1950) [10:21]
Variazioni e fuga sul nome di Bach (1950) [19:56]
Rocco Parisi (clarinet); Andrea Favalessa (cello); Gabriele Rota (piano)
rec. Bartokstudio, Bernareggio, Italy, 12, 14 January 2015
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95237 [61:31]
I dare say that for most people the name Nino Rota is and will be forever linked with film music; with Franco Zeffirelli’s Shakespeare films as well as the first two 'chapters' of Francis Ford Coppola's ‘Godfather’ trilogy. They won him much acclaim, indeed his score for The Godfather - Part II earned him an Oscar for Best Original Score in 1974. He was in fact an accomplished composer in many areas, including opera, of which he wrote eleven, and in most other forms of classical music. The five works presented here were composed between 1945 and 1977 as a diversion from his music for the silver screen.
The first piece is the Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. Despite its relatively late date it echoes the modernist music of central Europe during the inter-war period. The booklet notes point to a similarity with Prokofiev, although for me it more resembles Erwin Schulhoff, Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler.
In contrast to the Trio, both works for clarinet and piano, the Clarinet Sonata (1945) and the Allegro danzante (1977) are more akin to the late-romantic tradition. One thinks of the arrangement for the same combination of the Romance by Richard Strauss and other of his chamber compositions.
The Lo Spiritismo nella vecchia casa or ‘Spiritism in the old house’ originally formed the incidental music to a play by Ugo Betti. It was designed to utilise the full range and timbre of the instrument. Its differing sections, somewhat reminiscent of ‘Peter and the Wolf’, are used to accentuate the tension and drama of the play. As a suite of short pieces it still works well without the action of the play.
The final work on the disc, Variazioni e fuga sul nome di Bach was composed for piano and is similar in structure to Lo Spiritismo in that it takes the form of a series of interlocking variations. It is a strong work that shows off the virtuosic abilities of the pianist. It variety of tempos keep the performers on their toes.
All the musicians here — Rocco Parisi, Andrea Favalessa, Gabriele Rota who, as far as I can make out, is no relation to the composer — give very good and committed performances. The music comes alive in their hands. The recorded sound is good as are the brief booklet notes. All in all, this is a very interesting and enjoyable release. Clearly there is much more to Rota than his film scores. He was also a master of music for smaller ensembles and solo instrumentalists.