This compilation was first released by EMI in 1992. Its reappearance
is very welcome for this is first class film music. In fact I would count Rota’s
inspiring score for Il gattopardo (The Leopard) amongst my top ten favourite
film scores of all time. It is given a bravura performance here by the Monte-Carlo
Orchestra although I have to say I prefer the more complete suite played again
with great elan by the Filarmonica della Scala (Milan) conducted by Riccardo
Mutti on Sony SK63359. Visconti’s film starred Burt Lancaster in one of his
best roles as a Sicilian aristocrat struggling to maintain his traditions and
keep abreast of changing times during the era of the Risorgimento - the movement
towards the unification of Italy - when Garibaldi and his thousand ‘Red Shirts’
invaded Sicily in May 1860. The score has a wonderful heroic/romantic sweep
that is irresistible.
The other items in this compilation do not overlap with the
Sony compilation, but complement it so readers can safely invest in this album.
From King Vidor’s War and Peace we have plaintive folk-like material
reflecting the sufferings of the invaded Russian people followed by the daintily
romantic ‘Rose of Novgorod’ and the end credits that close on a note victory
and celebratory bells. Much of Rota’s score for Waterloo ended on the
cutting room floor but here we have stirring battle music and the glittering
but brittle waltz from the eve-of- battle ball.
The most significant item and worth the price of this CD alone
is the seven-movement ballet suite for La strada (The Road) inspired
by, but not written for Fellini’s film. This is a very powerful piece with that
heart-rending theme captured on that lone melancholic trumpet. Rota’s magnificent
score captures all the dark tragic drama and quirky comic poignancy of the circus
people on the road.
A quibble – the booklet notes are too brief about the actual
music – one page is scarcely sufficient; too much space is given over to promoting
other reissues in this Angel "encore" series.
Mark Hockley adds another opinion –
To give a sense of balance for those who may not be quite so
captivated by the style of music on offer here, I should add that Rota’s scores
are very much in the classical tradition. In fact his work on The Leopard
could easily have been a ballet itself. The only real exception to this
are some of the cues from Waterloo, particularly the final track which
has some powerful, typically cinematic moments. Rota is unquestionably a talented
composer but his work here may not necessarily appeal to the more modern-minded
of film music fans. When taking this into consideration, I think it’s fair to
say that if your taste leans toward classical European music then you will adore
this, but if not, it may prove less engaging, allowing for the fact that you
can’t fault it on either an artistic or technical level.>