NINO ROTA: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2; Il Gattopardo suite for orchestra – Friedrich Kleinhapl, cello/ Philharmonisches Orchester Augsburg/ Dirk Kaftan – Ars Produktion multichannel SACD 38 105, 65:06 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
Nino Rota, who lived until 1979, is best-known for his over 150 film scores—for both Italian productions (such as most of Fellini’s) and international films. But he was also a prolific composer of many abstract works and music for theater productions, and these are beginning to see more presence on CD releases. In some ways Rota was almost too successful as a film composer to be considered a serious composer. There are parallels with composer Erich Korngold, who was also better known as a creator of film scores. The Cello Concertos and music from the film The Leopard have been issued on CD before, but not as a multichannel SACD.
Rota wrote an oratorio at age 11 and his first opera at age 14. At the age of 20 he came to the U.S. and studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and got to know Copland and Gershwin. His music for the Visconti film The Leopard comes from 1963 and uses the music of Verdi as symbolic of the civil revolution covered in the film. (Later Rota won an Oscar for his score for Coppola’s Godfather II.)
The Cello Concertos come from 1972 and 1973. written as a diptych. The first is Romantic in nature and the second more Classical, and both show a nostalgia (an important element in Rota‘s music) for historic cello concertos of the past. The First has more dramatic orchestration and a quite virtuosic finale. The Second is more subdued and Classical in form and sound, even quoting a bit of Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G Major.
Kleinhapl is an excellent soloist; he has made a fine career in spite of being told as a young man that his hands were too small and his legs too short to play the cello. Hadn’t heard of the Augsburg orchestra before, but they provide suitable backing to the cello in the two concerti, and carry off the mostly-spritely waltzes and polkas of the Gattopardo music with aplomb. The hi-res surround provided by Ars is first-rate.
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