A Lively Delivery of Rota’s Gems

Review by: James Imam


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 10

Nino Rota’s film scores are widely celebrated, but much of his output (including 22 stage works) is relatively unknown. Decca’s ambitious series of 6 double-disc volumes–not quite his opera omnia, as it has been described, though no single collection comes closer–attempts to put the record straight.

The selected works, realized by the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi (“La Verdi”) and conductor Giuseppe Grazioli, are distributed throughout the series not chronologically but more loosely along thematic lines. When sleeve notes are so comprehensive (though awkwardly translated in this first volume) the result is a biographical jigsaw puzzle offering a panoramic view of Rota’s life and works. The Fuga per quartetto d’archi, organo e orchestra d’archi is a case in point: this Vivaldi-style miniature, composed by the 11-year-old Rota, provides a rare impression of the precocious composer.

Successive volumes in the series trump this one for their more interesting content. Rota’s pieces for harp are not his most compelling, and, in particular, the inclusion of the composer’s own harp arrangement of the Love Theme from The Godfather smacks of disc filler. That said, many of the big-boned works featured here are real gems. The two cello concertos are sumptuously conveyed by the orchestra and cellist Mario Shirai Grigolato, and presenting these contrasting pieces adjacently–the hot-blooded first followed by the more whimsical second–allows for easy comparison.

In the film music, La Verdi also plays persuasively. It gives a piquant delivery of the Orient-inspired Suite from Fellini’s Satyricon and Roma, while, in The Legend of the Glass Mountain, a Trentino landscape is strongly evoked in shimmering Korngoldian expanses and lively barcarolles (barcarolles in Trentino?) in what makes for a flying start to the first disc. The sound is consistently full-bodied and crystal clear; the Variazioni sopra un tema gioviale and madcap Overture to Il cappello di paglia di Firenze stand out for their froth and fizz. A fitting tribute, and highly enjoyable.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Nino Rota: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
    The Legend Of The Glass Mountain (1949); Variazione Sopra Un Tema Gioviale (1953); Fuga Per Quartetto D'archi, Organo E Orchestra D'archi (1923); Concerto Per Violoncello E Orchestra (1925); Allegro Concertante (1953); Concerto Per Arpa E Orchestra (1947-50); Sarabanda E Toccata Per Arpa (1945); Il Cappello di Paglia di Firenze Ouverture (1945-46); Satyricon / Roma Suite (1971); Il Padrino Per Arpa (Love Theme) (1972); Concerto N.1 Per Violoncello E Orchestra (1972); Concerto N.1 Per Violoncello E Orchestra (1974)
  • Elena Piva (harp); Mario Shirai Grigolato (cello)
  • Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Giuseppe Grazioli

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