NINO ROTA: Orchestral Suite “La Strada;” Concerto Soirée for piano and orchestra; Dances for the film “The Leopard” – Benedetto Lupo, piano/ Orchestra of the City of Granada/Josep Pons – Harmonia mundi HMC

by | Jul 6, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

NINO ROTA: Orchestral Suite “La Strada;” Concerto Soirée for
piano and orchestra; Dances for the film “The Leopard” – Benedetto
Lupo, piano/ Orchestra of the City of Granada/Josep Pons – 
Harmonia mundi HMC 901864, 64:15 ***** [Release Date: July 12]:

In the face of DualDiscs and double-disc combinations of CD and DVD, we
may forget there is another combination of two media which has been
around much longer – the book which comes with a CD (or in the past an
LP).  This lavish but compact package, bound like a small book,
has an 84-page book in several languages with some wonderful Fellini
and Rota photos, and two essays: “Nino Rota, the eternal child” – on
the program on the CD; and “From Fellini to Coppola…” – about the
many famous directors whose films Rota scored – although Fellini was
his mainstay. There is also an interview with the piano soloist in the
Concerto Soirée titled “In Praise of Inconstancy,” and a filmography on
the various scores Rota wrote during his career.  I discovered
there was one early Fellini film I hadn’t seen, which is now at the top
of my list.  I’m certain I wouldn’t be such a Fellini fan if it
weren’t for Nino Rota’s music for them.

One would think these works were later arranged for concert hall
performance from the film music and with Rota that is often true. But
it is just as likely that his music was originally created for the
concert hall and later reused in the film score. The seven sections of
the La Strada suite are taken from a 12-movement ballet arranged by
Rota a dozen years after the premiere of the film.  The familiar
tunes are in evidence, with the main themes being two sides of Rota’s
musical personality – the lyrical Romantic, and the raucous atmosphere
of the circus.  The situation with The Leopard was just the
reverse. Rota said it was the only film score which had been accepted
and even recorded before shooting on the film began.  Some of the
music came from a 1947 symphony he had written and the six-movement
dance suite we hear on the CD was music he had previously created for a
1954 film by another director.

The Concerto Soirée is partly the composer’s nostalgic tribute to the
19th century piano concerto.  Two of the themes in its five short
movements were taken from his film scores: one from La Strada and the
other from 8 1/2.   The predominant key of the concerto
vacillates between C major and C minor – a characteristic of certain
folk music including gypsy.  There have been other Rota
collections similar to this album, but with the essays included herein
combined with the non-hackneyed music selections, one comes away with a
renewed appreciation of probably the most fruitful partnership of
composer and director in the history of cinema.  Both performances
and sonics are equal to the high level of this entire project.

– John Sunier

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