Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Nino ROTA Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2. Norrköping Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ole Kristian Ruud. BIS CD-970 [63:18]  


Crotchet (UK)

Following on from the recent release, by Chandos, of the Nino Rota Piano Concertos, reviewed on this site recently, these are world premiere performances of two more considerable concert works by this renowned composer of film music. While there is very, very little music here that we know from the film scores, the symphonies, No. 2 in particular, show recognisable traits that would develop into Rota's successful film scores.

Rota's First Symphony, written over the years 1935-39, has considerable charm and appeal. It speaks directly in the late Romantic tradition, there's no hint of the avante garde writing that was beginning to occupy the attention of so many other composers at this time. The opening movement has an open-air freshness, its feet seem to be firmly rooted in the Italian soil. It opens calmly but grows increasingly animated and dramatic with colour and melody. The Andante has a cloistered serenity, strings ascending heavenwards while tuba and trombones give some underpinning devotional gravity. One is reminded of the religious epic film music of Miklós Rózsa. The Scherzo is light and frothy, skipping gaily along in childlike innocence; indeed, one is reminded of childhood games and loud boisterous horseplay. The Finale is dramatic and full of conflict: dark vs light; sinister vs heroic. Any film director would be delighted to consider such material.

The Second Symphony was written mainly between 1937 and 1941, when he was teaching in Taranto in the remote, extreme south of Italy; and completed in 1975. The work's opening movement has a similar beginning to the First Symphony, tranquil and speaking of a simple Italian rural life dominated by the church. It soon intensifies, however, and is full of action and emotion. The second is a merry, but strongly accented Tarantella with a lovely trio section. There is some nice intertwining string writing. The stream of the music mood broadens out into a more deeply felt peroration and sometimes it gave me mental pictures of some medieval pageantry as that at Sienna. At one point there is a faint pre-echo of the love music from Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). The Andante has its roots in plainchant, the Respighi of Concerto Gregoriano is not far away. The Final Allegro vivace is all gaiety. You feel there is a party in the village street; bells summon all to the feasting and dancing first under the hot sun and then under the stars. Much of this symphony is of the stuff that film scores are made.

Rota wrote two further symphonies (it is to be hoped that BIS will record them). The Fourth Symphony (Sinfonia sopra una canzona d'amore) was sketched in 1947 and was drawn on several times for film sound tracks such as The Glass Mountain and Il Gattopardo.

Ruud and the Norrköping SO give strong performances of these works. Highly recommended to Rota fans.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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