Nino Rota Orchestral Works Vol 1

Category Discography

Nino Rota Orchestral Works Vol 1

Disc 1

  1. The Legend of the Glass Mountain (1949)
  2. Variazioni sopra une tema gioviale (1953)
  3. Fuga per quartetto d’archi, organo e orchestra d’archi (1923)
  4. Concerto per violoncello e orchestra (1925)
  5. Allegro concertante (1953)
  6. Concerto per arpa e orchestra (1947-40)
  7. Sarabanda e toccata per arpa (1945)
  8. Il cappello di paglia di Firenze Ouverture (1945-46)

Disc 2

  1. Satyricon/Roma Suite (1971)
  2. Il Padrino per arpa (Love Themes) (1972)
  3. Concerto no. 1 per violoncello e orchestra (1972)
  4. Concerto no. 2 per violoncello e orchestra (1974)

Registrazione / Recording: Auditorium di Milano Fondazione Cariplo 08/2011

Ensemble / Ensemble: Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi

Direttore d'orchestra / Conductor: Giuseppe Grazioli

Casa Dicografica / Record Label: Decca

Editore / Publisher:
CD 1: 1 EMI Music Publishing
2-11, 15-20 Universal Music Publishing Ricordi
12-14 Schott Music
CD 2: 1 EMI Music Publishing
2 Sony ATV
3-8 Schott Music

Recensioni / Reviews:
Classics Today

Note alla discografia / Liner Notes:

Disc 1

The music composed by Nino Rota in 1948 for the film The Glass Mountain (1949) was his first great international success in the world of cinema. In fact, the success was so considerable it surpassed that of the film itself. The score was performed by all the light music orchestras during those years in Great Britain; indeed, the main theme became, for a certain period, the opening music for the BBC’s radio broadcast. Titled The Legend of the Glass Mountain, this suite orchestrated by Rota himself aligns, after a short opening fanfare, the love theme alternated with a famous Alpine song, La montanara. The orchestration is particularly rich and varied, based upon the model of score composed by Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold for Hollywood movies in the 1930 and 1940s.

The present, and somewhat neglected, fate of the Varazioni sopra una tema gioviale, presented here in its first worldwide recording, was probably due to the hostility on behalf of most Italian critics upon its debut. For example, in an article for Il Tempo dated 25 January 1954, Guido Pannain wrote regarding a concert that had evidently and completely vexed him: "…The crash was brought about by Nino Rota’s Variations on a Jovial Theme. A kind of shameless exhibitionism, displayed with brazenness and provocation. In an old–style motif, one of pudgy pleasantness, we have various improvised attitudes, of sought–after or ostentatious triviality. Like someone who invites you with a shocking grimace, and while enjoying its vulgarity he looks into your eyes slyly to see if you have any scruples about it: he blabs out clichès of witty stupidity, and in order to give himself an air of playfulness and nonchalance he tells lewd jokes, the kind that with such elegance and distinction recur in fashionable chatting. And he is the first to laugh about it, and the fools who listen to him aid and abet him. This is how Rota’s Variations were eagerly applauded." In contrast to the conditioning and prejudiced opinion of Pannain, I’d like to mention Winthrop Sergeant, one of America’ most authoritative music critics for the magazine New Yorker, from which I have taken the following review. After having specified that the piece’s goal is certainly to entertain the audience with lightheartedness, he adds: "…What impressed me about it was Mr. Rota’s technical mastery of the orchestra and of the complex ingredients of chromatic harmony, which he employs with a virtuosity reminiscent of Richard Strauss. These ingredients are not only more pleasant to listen to but infinitely subtler than the arbitrary system of composition used by the atonalists, and, in Mr. Rota’s hands, they are as rich in musical meaning as the latter is devoid of it. But let’s stick to the essential. First of all, it must be specified that the terms "jovial" was intended by Maestro Rota, contrary to what Guido Pannain believed, in the literal sense: that is, as can be found in the Zingarelli Italian Dictionary: "an adjective of Jove, a planet from which pours forth influences of content serenity." Even though this theme, during the eight variations - so light and seemingly unsuited to any considerable development - demonstrates in the hands of Rota acrobatic abilities so as to leave even the most crafty listener with a slight feeling of dizziness at the close of the piece.

"Every now and then we met in parlors, because we were two small monsters - actually, in a certain sense Nino was more monstrous as an enfant prodige, because he was technically much more ahead than myself. At eleven he composed L’Infanzie di San Giovanna Battista [oratorio for solo chorus and orchestra performed in 1923]. But our friendship had been ruffled by our mothers who made believe they were great friends but, actually, there was a kind of silent war between them because each felt her child was the true genius."

In a radio interview, Giancarlo Menotti (1911-2007) described to me his long friendship with Rota and their "monstrous" state of small music geniuses, young imitators of Mozart in 1920s Milan. And it is with this spirit, I believe, that one must approach the Fuga per quartetto d’archi, organo e orchestra d’archi (1923), composed "when he was almost twelve": when he returned home from school, instead of playing with his toys, he would get down on all fours and write music near the piano in his home. This Fuga, which acts perfectly and, in its brevity, amazes for the technical mastery of the inexperienced composer who was able to include even a touch of originality in his approach, was set aside for the artist’s entire life, like someone who keeps a locked-away childhood souvenir. I believe we should listen to it with this frame of mind, without attributing more to the piece than what it actually represents.

The Concerto per violoncello e orchestra (1925) represents another chapter in Rota's precocious training. Born in all likelihood from the Rota family's music circle, which included the cello player Enrico Mainardi (1897-1976), the concerto unfolds in a single, somewhat short strings movement, lasting overall more than ten minutes. A brilliant melody, initially performed by the strings and then in counterpoint by the woodwinds, introduces the instrument solo that begins accompanied by the harp and the strings with a bucolic-like melody. The cello is then given centre stage for a lively triplet theme, accompanied by woodwinds and the brass section. Subsequently, the soloist performs the concert's vastly songlike main theme, supported by an accompaniment of woodwinds, violins and violas. At this point the entire orchestra replies by resuming the overall theme, particularly on the part of the soloist with considerable virtuosity. Once again the strings resume the work's opening, introducing the short but intense cello solo. After another orchestral pause, the final solo performance prepares a mood of greater tension and drama that melts away in a long concert section, aimed at creating a feeling of solemnity while approaching the conclusion.

The Allegro concertante per orchestra (1953) is part of those works by Rota that were composed while he taught at the Conservatorio N. Piccinni in Bari, where he acted as director between 1950 and 1977. The score entails a double finale that, though leaving the composition unaltered, completes the alternative between the use of a mixed chorus or an organ, as is the case with this recording. In fact, the chorus finale was conceived to give all the students of the Conservatory a chance to take part in this music event which, given the difficulty of some solo parts, certainly necessitated the participation of professors as well. The composition may be defined as a sort of hymn to the joys of making music together. In Rota, the inspiration, even when it is so explicitly tied to a precise commission, is never concise, and the music flows right from the start upon a theme of considerable involvement which is subsequently developed and varied to allow each instrument to have its own solo part and to finally reach a "choral" finale, which inscribes it in the form of a hymn.

The Concerto per arpa e orchestra (1947-1950), performed for the first time in Turin on 9 March 1951 by the RAI Orchestra conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, is dedicated to Clelia Gatti Aldrovandi who also performed at the debut. After his early experiments with the cello, this concert is the first in a long line of compositions for solo instruments and orchestra that would join his impressive concert opus catalogue in later years. The first movement, after the performance of the theme on the part of the soloist, open with an intense exchange between the harp and the flutes, and, gradually, the other orchestra instruments. The development of the movement consists of a sparring match between the soloist and the different sections of the orchestra, which is led to solemnly develop the theme and introduce a long harp cadence approaching the finale. The second movement as well opens with a dialogue between the harp and the flutes, turning into a game of references where, in an intimate and discreet way, each section of the orchestra is given centre stage. The intervention of the trumpet solo marks a change from an atmosphere of dialogue to a sort of musical meditation, in which the brass instruments and the harp are mainly responsible for creating a sound field both rarefied and fascinating. The Allegro of the third movement opens with the theme performed by the complete orchestra, followed by an effective staccato on the part of the harp solo. This movement is opposed to the previous one with a close–knit structure, made up of short blocks that follow one another without pause; small orchestral explosions serve as the springboard for rather quick arpeggios, followed by an effective dialogue between the two main players of the entire piece, that is, the flute – or rather, the flutes and the harp. The cadence consists of a series of virtuoso variations upon the main theme of the composition, responded to by the orchestra with its bow instruments and concluding with the solos of the flute octave–flue and harp.

The Srarabanda e toccata per arpa was composed in 1945 and was also dedicated to Clelia Gatti Aldrovandi who, besides being the greatest Italian virtuosos of the age, was the wife of Guido Maggiorino Gatti, a noteworthy musicologist and administrator of Lux Film. Gatti is attributed with the idea of trying to include in the world of cinema during those years classical music composers such as Vincenzo Tommasini, Goffredo Petrassi and, precisely, Nino Rota. The work, whose title is reminiscent of a neoclassical origin, is – let me specify – a small masterpiece of balance between such mundane needs, that is, virtuosity aimed at highlighting the performer’s skills, and the needs of a steadfast and very alert stylistic form.

The Il capello di paglie di Firenze, based upon the famous farce by Eugène Labiche and Marc Michel, is the most popular title of Rota’s theatrical repertoire. Composed in 1945–1946 and performed for the first time in 1955 in Palermo, it still remains even today Rota’s most representative theatre work. If we were to acknowledge one single merit of this work we could say that it never not even for single moment, betrays the theater masterpiece upon which it is based, that is, one of the nineteenth century’s most amusing and successful comedies. A perfect theatrical machine, with a dizzying pace that Rota’s music covers with the same rhythm and form. Indeed, because in Il capello di paglie you can find just about everything, since the work is, in fact, created with the best material of Italian theatre music – Verdi and Rossini, especially – without any intent to quote and/or ironic critique, but with the ability to assemble in an original way elements serving the goal. Or rather, to allow the reluctant and chaotic theatre event to pass by faster and faster, just like a film. As is suited, the Overture is, at the same time, its summary and introduction.

Disc 2

Fellini Satyricon (1969) and Roma (1971) are considered two minor works in the long collaboration between Nino Rota and Federico Fellini. Actually, these are two films of great artistic value that mark moments of discontinuity and experimentation for the director from Rimini who, once again, found complete collaboration and support in his musical alter ego. In fact, Satyricon references a substantially unknown musical mood, or more specifically, that of Ancient Rome. Thus Rota found himself having to work with a soundtrack mostly made up of pre-recorded material from Oriental and African ethnic music repertories. Therefore, the Maestro composed on his own only a very simple melody, a sort of ancestral slow melody. entrusted to the sitar in the film's original soundtrack and to the acoustic guitar in this suite. Rota would subsequently reuse this theme for Roma, in which Fellini, so as to pay homage to and narrate the city where he lived and worked, invented in his own way that which would become many years later a successful TV genre the "docufiction". Within this structure of make- believe journalistic investigation, various music repertoire materials are included, and the suitably instrumented ancestral melody of Satyricon takes on a different, vast and mysterious tone here evoking the origins of the Eternal City. Alongside this element is the accompanying music of one of the most famous sequences in the collaboration between the filmmaker and the composer, the so- called Defilé Ecclesiastico. Moving upon a catwalk, as if in a fashion show, are grotesque characters who represent a post-atomic and hallucinated clergy. The music accompanies everything with a heavy and grotesque rhythm, upon which is established a Middle:Eastern style melody colouring this oneiric parade of ghosts.

Rota's love theme for The Godfather/Il Padrino (1972) is probably his most celebrated composition, a consolidated evergreen performed throughout the world, from street artists to professional musicians in concert halls; a music whose popularity considerably outweighs the notoriety of its creator. The transcription for solo harp was prepared by Rota himself for Elena Zaniboni, who was one of then most assiduous interpreters of his concert repertoire. It was a veritable challenge to transpose this unfolding melody. almost a romance. to an ethereal-sounding string instrument like the harp. The composer resolved the problem by aligning a series of short variations on the theme, which thanks to the pedal and accompanying arpeggios, recreate a shimmering echo, almost a dream-like recollection of the original version transposed into an unexpected, though immediately recognizable, dimension.

The Concerto n. 1 per Violoncello e orchestra (1972) was born that same year of great commercial success for The Godfather, a success that equalled the countless legal and administrative problems which hit down hard upon Rota, culminating with a no-win at the Oscars. The melody of the famous love theme had in fact been composed many years earlier, but if this sheltered it from plagiarism, it also secured its exclusion from the Oscars, in so far as the rules of the Academy do not allow for even a single part of the winning work to have been used prior to competition entry. Despite all these problems, Rota was able to disentangle himself and find the time, after his daily commitments at the Conservatorio Piccinni in Bari, to compose this solo concert which marks, after almost fifty years from his Concerto per Violoncello (1925), a return to an instrument he greatly loved for its distinct songlike qualities.

The first movement, Allegro, opens with a short phrasing of unison stringed instruments, immediately followed by the cello to commence a heated dialogue in which other orchestra instruments gradually begin to take part, though always setting aside a predominant role to the stringed instruments. Given the familial instrumental timbre, this challenge between the soloist and the strings orchestra has only brief moments of stasis, when the cello introduces a second more songlike theme, weaving a dialogue with flutes and clarinets, to finally conclude where a return of the opening theme gives life to a crescendo from a dynamic point of view and a shortening of the tempo with rather dramatic tones. The second movement, Larghetto Cantabile, opens with a melancholic cello solo that gives both substance and poetic breadth to the pre-existing mood. Here the strings act as accompaniment, harmonizing and supporting, whereas the soloist mainly dialogues once again with the clarinet and flute. Opening subsequently is a second section with pronounced rhythm which picks up again on the theme material of the first movement, and the conclusion is entrusted to the initial melody variated in tone and made even darker in tone by orchestral accompaniment. The Concerto unfolds upon a canonical Allegro with a theme that calls to mind Prokofiev, with a free and easy pace and more upbeat orchestral tone colour. The central cadence and, generally speaking, the entire solo parts are here particularly arduous and necessitate noteworthy virtuosity and great command of intonation. After attentive exploration on the part of the cello solo of all the theme nuances and resources the composition may offer, the conclusion is entrusted to the orchestra, which resumes the main theme of this third movement, leading it, after the intervention of each single section, to a final terse, almost truncated, chord.

The Concerto n. 2 per Violoncello e orchestra (1974) is also structured in the classic three parts, showing right from the start considerable measure and balance. The score highlights a well written solo part, which requires virtuosity on behalf of the performer, associated with orchestration that is perfectly suited to the solo project; in this case I would say predominately in dialoguing than accompanying. The cello presents itself straight away as an agile voice in the strings family, united with them and the entire orchestra in narrating a story. And it is precisely the strings family that introduces the event, with a melody that once more calls to mind those of Prokofiev, but upon which a platform is built for the soloist that hurls himself into a dizzying descending scale and picks up again the initial theme supported and accompanied by others. Thus begins an intense dialogue among all performers, in which the initial figuration in different tones is repeated. interspersed with other melodies that lead us to the conclusion. The second movement opens with the cello and a long theme, immediately picked up by the orchestra in which the soloist successfully counterbalances. An intermezzo introduced by wind instruments opens a long dialogue between this section and the cello which also uses pizzicato in accompanying the other instruments. The situation then once again opens up to the entire orchestra in introducing the Cadence. This entails an uncommonly long section, in which the orchestra keeps its concert role and ultimately melts down the accumulated tension upon a new melodic theme of great charm that leads to the conclusion of the movement with a cello supported by woodwinds.

The third movement begins abruptly, with clarinets supporting the soloist in the melody and continuing with dialogue, as if murmuring. with the orchestra that, in turn, reproposes the melody upon which the cello gradually structures a series of variations, to reach, with lightness and unexpectedness, the conclusion. The soloist seems to flee along a steep stair and the orchestra suddenly closes the door.

Francesco Lombardi
Translation: Emily Ligniti

Date 2013-Mar-5