Nino Rota Kremerata Musica

Category Discography

With Gidon Kremer, recorded live at the 1996 Lockenhaus Festival.

Track List:

  • Piccola Offerta Musicale
    (1943, Alphonse Leduc)
  1. Piccola Offerta Musicale (3:40)
  • Sarabanda e Toccata per Arpa (7:17)
    (1945, Ricordi)
  1. Sarabanda
  2. Toccata
  • Trio per Flauto, Violino e Pianoforte (12:20)
    (1958, Ricordi)
  1. Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Andante sostenuto
  3. Allegro vivace con spirito
  • Ippolito gioca per pianoforte
    (1930, Ricordi)
  1. Ippolito gioca per pianoforte (1:22)
  1. Il Presepio for soprano and string quartet (6:35)
  1. Cantilena (from Sette pezzi per bambini for piano solo) (1:52)
  • Intermezzo per Viola e Pianoforte
    (1945, Ricordi)
  1. Intermezzo per Viola e Pianoforte (8:40)
  • Puccettino nella giungla
    (1971, Ricordi)
  1. Puccettino nella giungla (from Sette pezzi per bambini) (2:15)
  • Nonetto (26:20)
    (1959-77, Ricordi)
  1. Allegro
  2. Andante
  3. Allegro con spirito
  4. Canzone con variazione
  5. Vivacissimo

Record Label: BIS Records (CD: BIS-CD-870)

Liner Notes/Description

The Chamber Music of Nino Rota: from Bourgeois salon to Conservatoire teaching

At the end of the nineteenth century, one of the landmarks of Genoese musical life was the house of Giovanni Rinaldi. Rinaldi was a highly esteemed musician: teacher, pianist and composer for keyboard, a friend of Giuseppe Verdi and Amilcare Ponchielli, and together with his wife Gioconda Anfossi (also a pianist) always ready to welcome musicians passing through the city. In this crowded home, with nine children and six pianos, it could be said that, between private lessons, musical evenings and children's activities, the sound of music never ceased. The nine children of Giovanni Rinaldi, every one of whom was started on the piano, also included Nino Rota's mother, Ernesta. The latter sacrificed her own concert career to link her destiny with that of the Rota family in Milan, finding in the process another environment conducive to music and art. Maria Rota, a refined and exacting singer, and Titina Rota, who was to become a respected painter and stage designer, were both attentive and affectionate cousins of the young Nino.

When Giovanni (Nino) Rota revealed his highly precocious musical talent, beginning to compose before he was ten and making his public debut at the age of twelve, this seemed to everyone a natural consequence of the constant and enthusiastic music-making with which he was surrounded.

The parents were not entirely convinced of the soundness of an artistic career, however, and there-fore decided to provide their son with a suitable humanist education at the same time as they let him follow a regular course of musical studies. Among Rota's teachers, Alfredo Casella was certainly the one who had the major influence on his artistic and, above all, personal development. Casella taught Rota to become a man of his time, and to regard composing as a normal part of contemporary life, with the same value and dignity as in any other profession.

One could say that the first work on this record, the Piccola Offerta Musicale for flute, oboe, bassoon and horn (dedicated to Casella) is not only a homage to the true master of neoclassicism himself, but also clear evidence of the passion for dignity and discipline which Casella transmitted. It was 1943, among the darkest years of the Second World War and perhaps of the whole century. In spite of an early unhappy experience, Rota was forced to return to the world of the cinema in order to survive. At the same time he composed this small but perfect mechanical toy in which the extension of the coda, which takes up the opening passage and makes it fade into silence, seems to suggest a toy windmill moving away lightly into the realm of music and leaving the horrors of the real world behind it.

The Sarabande and Toccata for harp from 1945 are dedicated to Clelia Gatti Aldrovandi, the great harpist and wife of Guido M. Gatti, distinguished musicologist and manager of the emergent Italian cinema industry, partly responsible for the introduction of Rota into the world of film sound-tracks. This piece, together with the Concerto for Harp and Orchestra and Sonata for Flute and Harp, suggests a more than passing interest in the instrument and, notwithstanding its distinctly neo-classical idiom, pays great attention to the special qualities of the harp through writing of a virtuoso nature. The two movements — Sarabande and Toccata — counterbalance and reflect each other with formal stringency, whilst leaving the melody free to unfold.

The Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano is probably one of the most important works in Rota's entire chamber music output. Composed for the Klemm Trio, active in Rome during the 1960s, its first appearance was warmly greeted by the public, incidentally proclaiming — in an era of happenings and artistic provocations — an even clearer detachment from musical practice of the time. It reveals the work of a mature musician, already famous for his soundtracks to the early Fellini films, confident in his own ability and suggesting an idiom which, while far from avant-garde, is in no way impersonal or the result of simply rehashing the past.

In the first movement, dazzling in its tempo and thematic material, the instruments are presented as if they were part of a theatrical performance, each with an individual character, a personality of its own: solid and persistent the piano, light and rapid the flute, passionate — or simultaneously sweet and violent — the violin.

In the linear and contemplative second movement, the violin and flute contend with each other for the melody, with the piano in the middle to sustain them.

The work is completed by a joyful and brilliant third movement, in which the tension accumulated by the antagonism of the voices of the solo instruments gives way to virtuoso writing where, in a continuous crossing of parts, the triumphant balance of the entire work clearly emerges.

Ippolito gioca is another homage to former teachers. It was composed in 1930 to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Ildebrando Pizzetti, whose classes Rota attended as an observer between the ages of 11 and 13. On this occasion, the reference to a musical toy is quite explicit in the title, and refers to Pizzetti's son, who was actually called Ippolito. Short as it is, the piece is one of Rota's most successful for solo piano, for its clarity and felicity of invention, as well as for its solid construction, rounded off by a slight harmonic diminution which leaves the bitter taste associated with the end of a beautiful game.

Il Presepio for soprano and string quartet, composed by Rota in 1928, when he was seventeen, takes us even further back towards the period of the child prodigy. Given its first public performance by the composer's cousin, Maria Rota, in 1929, Il Presepio enjoyed a certain popularity until the war and was much played throughout Europe, but later fell into oblivion. It is worth noting, then, that the Lockenhaus version is not only the first recording, but also the first performance for fifty years. It is a work that reveals a young Rota already quite assured in his writing for string quartet, but in a transitional stylistic phase. Or rather, Il Presepio recalls numerous lyrical pieces written since childhood and mostly dedicated to this same cousin; its style is clearly influenced by a rather pretentious domestic musical environment, and remains under the spell of contemporary French music, with little evidence of that radiant and uninhibited outpouring of melody which was to become one of the chief stylistic features of Nino Rota's music.

Another long forgotten piece is the Intermezzo for viola and piano (c. 1945). In it we find a varied succession of musical episodes: dances, romanzas, marches and melancholy tunes — all linked by an expert hand — which not only anticipate subsequent developments in Rota's writing, but also reveal him as mature and confident in his own highly personal vein. In this piece it is already possible to discern the fully-fledged musician composing his most famous dramatic work, Il Cappello di paglia di Firenze, with the formative period and the shadow of the infant prodigy now behind him.

The last two pieces on the record belong finally to the mature and established composer, representing two important aspects of his musical life. Nino Rota devoted a large amount of time and energy to teaching. Beginning as a very young man in the 1930s, he later became director of the Bari Conservatory for twenty-five years. Within Rota's fairly meagre output for solo piano — perhaps a reaction to the total dedication to the instrument of his Rinaldi grandfather — the Sette pezzi difficili per bambini from 1971 are directly linked with this experience and were written for Conservatory pupils. These small pieces, with the word 'difficult' censured for publication in a series dedicated to easy pieces for children, present a number of difficulties in their deceptively clear and straightforward idiom, if they are regarded as material for young learners.

The two pieces chosen for this recording, Cantilena and Puccettino nella giungla show variously the extraordinary maturity and rich musicality of Rota at the height of his powers. The disarming simplicity of the melody in the Cantilena should not be mistaken for slightness of construction, for this elementary mechanism is anything but ingenuous. It not merely transcends facile comparisons and approaches, but reveals Rota's characteristic artlessness, often mistaken for vagueness and artistic irony, but actually concealing a wisdom and iron determination in the development of his craft. Puccettino nella giungla, more complex and slightly sulphurous, with its title from a children's fairy-tale of another era, ushers in the last and most substantial piece on the record: the Nonet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass.

Written, revised and modified over the period between 1959 and 1977, this work undoubtedly represents the sum of Rota's experiences in the field of chamber music, and one of the happiest syntheses of his art. Everything that has contributed to the composer's musical formation finds its role and justification here. The late nineteenth century musical salon of his grandparents and his own lessons in neoclassicism, the cheerfulness of his themes and his taste for extreme chromatic shifts, a capacity for imitation and concision sharpened by his work for the cinema, the control of a complex and extended form, are all now united and developed in writing which requires of its performers massive doses of virtuosity and understanding. Divided into five movements, of which the fourth — Canzone with (5) variations — is a kind of concerto within a concerto, the Nonet never has a dull moment in spite of its substantial twenty-six minutes, providing clear evidence that the irregular and solitary artistic course taken by Rota had strong roots and bore rich fruit. It is a course traced in the furrow of a search for beauty and formal harmony, delight-ing audience and performers alike.

© Francesco Lombardi 1997

Date 1996, 1997