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.