One of Nino Rota’s 80-odd film scores, that for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, almost certainly is his best known work in any genre. Rota (1911-79) also composed chamber, operatic, choral, and orchestral works (including several concertos and three symphonies), most of which were cast in a readily accessible neo-classical idiom. However, the majority of Rota’s non-cinematic output remains un-recorded, so it’s good that Chandos has taken a fresh initiative with a new disc featuring world-premiere accounts of his two cello concertos. Both works are externally similar in design and impose searching technical demands upon the soloist.
It’s true that the bravura element (and there’s plenty here!) provides the main focus of listening interest, and Dmitry Yablonsky is fully up to the task, realizing dexterous and musically convincing accounts of both works. Particularly impressive is his playing of the complex finale of Concerto No. 1, which requires great agility in the cello’s perilous higher registers. This work uses a fuller brass section, but the more classically oriented Second Concerto needs just two horns in addition to the regular forces. Probably the most interesting music on this disc comes in the Second concerto’s extended variation movement, lasting more than 13 minutes. Yablonsky gives accomplished performances of these unfamiliar works, and receives sensitively balanced accompaniments from Daniel Boico and I Virtuosi Italiani–all of which adds up to a welcome first recording of concertos that merit wider currency.