As most are aware, Rota’s best-known work was all the film scores he created for the films of Federico Fellini. The Milanese composer had a knack for filling the particular requirements of film directors, which won him much work in that arena. However, he also composed many concert and symphonic works during his career, which are only recently being widely exposed to the public via recordings.
Rota didn’t consider music for films and “serious” music as different genres in any way, and he frequently used portions of his film scores in his concert works and vice versa. The Sinfonia uses music from The Glass Mountain, as well as the classic Visconti film The Leopard. However, the work still uses the traditional four movements and follows the Austro-German school of symphonic writing. There are references to music of the past, plus elegant melodies and instrumentation.
The Concerto Soirée of 1958 may be one of the most demanding pieces of piano literature. Rota himself, as an excellent pianist, loved to perform it. The work has many clues to his cinematic connections. The sad melody of the third movement, for example, was originally the theme of Fellini’s La Strada, and Rota later used it for his La Strada ballet score. The last movement’s opening uses a theme from Fellini’s Otto e mezzo. Here again elements of music from past centuries are heard, in spite of the virtuoso leanings of the piano part. The recording was made back in 1991 and thus qualifies as a reissue, but its sonic qualities are perfectly up-to-date. It’s a great pleasure to explore this other side of the genius of Nino Rota.
– John Sunier