January 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Collection: The Film Music of NINO ROTA Original scores and transcriptions played by Massimo Palumbo (piano)    CHANDOS CHAN 9771 [59:12]

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The Godfather
The Glass Mountain
Fanciulle di lusso (Luxury Girls)
Death on the Nile
Romeo and Juliet
Fantasmi a Roma (Ghosts in Rome)

Il gattopardo (The Leopard)
Giulietta degli spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits)
The Taming of the Shrew
Quel bandito sono io (Her Favourite Husband)

These are Nino Rotas’s own piano trancriptions of his film scores that he used to like to play for his own, and his friends’ amusement, and sometimes in recitals. A friend of the composer (Rota died in 1979), Piermarco De Santi, who has contributed the booklet notes, remembers that Rota loved, especially, his music for the British film, The Glass Mountain, which was very popular here in the UK in the late 1940s. Rota invariably ended his recitals with the theme from this romantic film. Massimo Palumbo includes its grand sweeping cadences in this collection together with the film’s slow waltz.

This programme includes both music that is familiar and scores that are much less well-known. Palumbo eschews the over-dramatic approach, more apparent in the full-blown orchestral versions of many of these scores originally heard in the theatre. His quieter, more restrained renderings of The Godfather’s ‘Love Theme’, Waltz and ‘Michael’s Theme’; and the well-loved themes from Death on the Nile and Romeo and Juliet allow all their intrinsic beauty to be fully revealed.

Now about the lesser-known scores. Ghosts in Rome, of which I know nothing, is light-hearted material suggesting these ghosts are harmless and benign, more interested in having fun than scaring people. The music begins meditatively, nostalgically then the ghosts begin to dance: first to the rhythms of the 1920s and 30s with some ghosts a bit leaden-footed, then more graceful feet take over in a minuet which eventually gives way to a wilder boogie-woogie. We leave as ‘The ghost knight [has some fun with] the nurses’ – or is it the nurses having fun with the proud knight? Luxury Girls appears to be another comedy. Starchy, prim and proper music for the college and the teachers contrasts with the mischievous pranks of the girls. ‘Towards College’ includes music in the style of the minuet and barcarole and the ‘Dance Lesson’ is very much ballet music – all cheekily lampooned. Obsession (1948), another British film starring Robert Newton was about a doctor who decides to kill his wife’s lover by imprisoning him in a lonely cellar while he accumulates enough acid to destroy all trace of his body. Palumbo plays the melodramatic music in the late Romantic/gothic tradition, full of intensity and bravura; the score also includes some passionately romantic material and music that suggests French folk tunes. The ‘Neapolitan samba’ from Her Favourite Husband which closes the recital is full of colour and vibrant rhythms.

Palumbo realises the proud grandeur of the Main Titles music from The Leopard and gradually builds up to a deeply-felt rendering of the magnificent sweeping, romantic main theme. 8½, in contrast, is all delicate fragility while Juliet of the Spirits is all atmosphere and evocation in ‘Dew on the Frogs, and simple innocence in ‘Nun’s theatre.’

The short suite from The Taming of the Shrew comprises the genial ‘Sweet Italy’ that includes medieval dance music reminiscent of Respighi in his Ancient Airs and Dances mode, while ‘Love in Padua’ slyly suggests early marital strife and the shrewish behaviour of Kate.

A delightful recital and ideal for late night relaxed listening


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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