Concerto No. 2 per Violoncello e Orchestra

Category Orchestral Music

Prima Esecuzione/First Performed: Bari, 15 Mai 1987

Contenuto / Content:

  1. Allegro moderato
  2. Andantino cantabile, con grazia - Variazioni I-VI
  3. Finale

Strumentazione / Instrumentation: violoncello solista, 1e2 flauto (ottavino), 1e2 oboe, 1e2 clarinetto in si bem, 1e2 fagotto, 1e2 corno in fa, 1e2 tromba in do, timpani, archi

Durata / Duration: 00:23:00

See also:


Sparito/Sheet Music

Descrizione/Description from the preface to the sheet music for Concerto No. 2 per violoncello e orchestra

By the first half of the 1970s Nino Rota was famous as a composer of music for the cinema. Besides writing the music for Fellini's films he had collaborated with the greatest directors in Italy and abroad and put his name to more than a hundred sound tracks, some of which were already featuring in orchestral concert programmes performed all over the world. At the same time, Rota's inexhaustible creative inspiration constantly produced 'purely' musical compositions ranging from symphonic works to chamber pieces, from oratorios to vocal music and operas. Commissions often came from soloists who would ask him to write a piece for their own instrument or group of instruments. Nino Rota never backed out of such commissioned works, sometimes writing music with no immediate prospects of performance. This was the case with the Concerto in C for piano and orchestra, composed at the request of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, who never performed it, however, and which had its first performance at the Foro italico in Rome in November 1987, eight years after Rota's death. The same fate awaited the second concerto for cello and orchestra, dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich and also performed for the first time after the composer's death; it was played at a concert in Bari in May of the same year as the Concerto in C for piano and orchestra.

Nino Rota wrote three concertos for the cello altogether. The first, composed in 1925 when he was only fourteen years old, has no opus number. It is a short composition in a single movement lasting about twelve minutes, its lyricism steeped in echoes of Respighi. The other two, which have opus numbers 1 and 2, were written many years later and within a short space of time: the first between October and December 1972 and the second in the summer of 1973.

Even though very little time elapsed between the composition of these two concertos, they are surprisingly different in character: the first is enlivened by a Dionysian creative spirit soaring with energy, while the second tends towards an Apollonian quest for more rational feeling. That concerto is divided into two movements: I. Allegro moderato, II. Andantino cantabile, con grazia, a theme with seven variations, the last of which is developed at greater length and almost fulfills the function of a third movement. The principal theme of the whole work is constructed around the interval of an octave containing the second inversion of the chord of G major:

descending in the first movement

Nino Rota Concerto N.2 for violoncello and orchestra

and ascending in the theme with variations.

Nino Rota Concerto N.2 for violoncello and orchestra

The Allegro moderato is constructed on the classical model of sonata form with the alternation of 'solo' and 'tutti' passages typical of the concerto for solo instrument and orchestra; there is no real dialogue with the soloist, as in the first concerto, and the orchestra seems relegated to a merely supporting role. Not by chance is the original title of the work Concerto N°2 per Violoncello con accompagnamento d'Orchestra, and perhaps it is this characteristic that lends the concerto a markedly classical style, echoing the transparency of form in Mozart's concertos.

The second movement Variazioni e finale opens with the exposition of the theme Andantino cantabile, con grazia. This is a truly Italian theme that recalls the Mediterranean vocal setting of certain popular songs, almost like a serenade.

The variations are grouped in such a way that the whole of the second movement is set out on the formal model of a Scherzo, Adagio and Finale. Indeed, variations 1-5 with their dance rhythms may be considered as a Scherzo, variation 6 as a true Adagio and variation 7 as the Finale.

Among the variations that make up the first group (1-5), the third variation stands out (Tempo di valzer, calmo e cantabile), as does the fourth (Alla marcia, allegramente) and the fifth, a perpetuum mobile on the cello that leads into into a cadenza accompanied by string chords introducing the sixth variation: Calmo contemplativo, a melancholy nocturne characterised by anxious vocal lyricism. The seventh variation, Finale, takes up the theme again in joyful mood full of Rossini-like vitality and brings the concerto to an end with an outburst of high spirits.

It should be pointed out that during the composition of his Concerto No. 2 Rota had no reason to be in good humour: the great success of the sound track to The Godfather had brought with it a series of difficult legal issues associated with accusations of plagiarism, which among other things excluded it from nomination for an Oscar. It is common knowledge that Rota then won his case and was awarded the Oscar for his music to The Godfather II. Still, it seems that the Concerto No. 2 sprang from a genuine joie de vivre and from a search for equilibrium through art, which Rota himself expressed in these words:

'… music is, we may say, a natural human right because it speaks to everyone: to the great and the lowly, rich and poor, happy and unhappy, to all those who through some mysterious gift bestowed on the human soul are sensitive to the depth and power of its message.'

Bruno Moretti (Translation: Julia Rushworth)

Note alla discografia/Liner Notes
Nino Rota Orchestral Works Vol 1 (2013)

Date 1973
Publisher Schott Music