First of all it should be said
that most of the material in this compilation comprises reissues of music already
released by SILVA SCREEN with the exception of the cues: Nile Journey,
Histoires Extraordinaires and Legend of the Glass Mountain.
The last mentioned is particularly welcome. The Glass Mountain was a
1949 British film about an RAF officer and aspiring composer who is shot down
in the Italian Dolomites and nursed by a local girl with whom he falls in love
–’trouble is, he has a wife back home so the inevitable emotional tussle ensues.
The music from the film featured the great Italian baritone Tito Gobbi and its
main theme, the ‘Legend of the Glass Mountain’ became exceedingly popular at
the time. ‘Nile Journey’ comes from Death on the Nile, one of
those star-studded Agatha Christie who-dunnit adaptations. It is a nice broad
evocation of the majestic Egyptian river. From Histoire Extraordinaires,
comes the jolly scintillating jazz number ‘Toby Dammit’.
Romeo & Juliet is deservedly
one of Rota’s most popular scores. It is graced by a suite of five substantial
movements on CD1. Beautifully crafted it has exciting fanfares, lively period
dance music, music of danger and intrigue and pathos; and, of course, that magic,
tender love theme. CD1 begins with the ebullient music for another Shakespearean
film adaptation, The Taming of the Shrew. The poignant Godfather love theme,
redolent of Sicilian family sentimentality, is followed by more affecting, easily-recognisable
music in the shape of the equally haunting ‘Sicilian Pastorale’ and the languid,
and then flauntingly sensual ‘Finale’ from The Godfather II.
The seven-minute suite from Juliet
of the Spirits, about a bored middle-aged woman seeking escape into an occult
sensual world, is, in its opening passages, at once eerie, mysterious and full
of unease but also redolent of Juliet’s essential childish innocence. Then a
carefree carnival atmosphere predominates in this predominantly jazz/easy listening-based
score with imaginative use of xylophone and celeste and persistent woodwind
cuckoos. A splendid score, full of fun and pathos. CD1 is rounded off with a
seven-minute suite from La Dolce Vita about decadence and debauchery
in the Rome of the 1950s. Oily woodwinds, tense discords, high-stepping jazz
interludes, and voluptuous, slinky music predominate, together with occasional
material that hints back to Gregorian modes. This is the first of Rota’s scores
for the films of Federico Fellini that occupy the bulk of this collection.
CD2 has the hedonistic extravagant
escapist music from The White Sheikh followed by the hectic buffoonery
and carnival atmosphere of 8˝ with its Khachaturian overtones. A beautiful
refrain of romantic longing is heard from I Vitelloni before the music
becomes cheeky and flirty for this film about five young men pursuing girls
and getting into all sorts of trouble. High-spirited jinks alternating with
engaging tenderness informs the music for The Swindle. A six-minute suite
of music from The Nights of Cabria about an eternally optimistic, guileless
prostitute’s fruitless search for ideal love underlines her innate goodness
and childlike innocence in music of real enchantment and breezy jazz and Latin
dance tunes. From the modern take of Boccaccio 70, there is exuberant,
mischievous march music for the episode ‘The Temptation of Dr Antonio’ sequence
in which a giant billboard illustration of a lasciviously-clad woman steps out
of the picture to tempt a puritanical man. Music from another Fellini film,
Satyricon, has material reflecting ancient modes before playful music
redolent of sly naughty pleasures ensues; while Clowns with big bass
drum and tipsy brass celebrates circus fun. Roma’s music contrasts the
pomp and grandeur of sheer joy of Ancient Rome with the modern City’s harsher,
Amarcord was an amusing burlesque
on the colourful characters Fellini remembered from his youth in a small town
on the Adriatic. It inspired one of Nino Rota’s best-loved melodies full of
fond nostalgia. Riotous and sensual episodes from the life and liberties of
the 18th century scoundrel, Casanova drew contemporary, surprisingly
dark music for this story that was ultimately about Casanova’s failures as much
as his conquests. For the offbeat Orchestral Rehearsal, Rota provided humorous,
insolent neo-classical material, reminiscent of Shostakovich or Stravinsky.
Finally there is a 6˝ minute suite from La Strada another classic Rota score
with that famous plaintive melody for solo trumpet and orchestra.
A very attractive compilation
of Nino Rota’s very attractive, melodic film music – pity there wasn’t room
for his classic score for Il Gatopardo (The Leopard).