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CD Feature/ Nino Rota: "Sinfonia sopra una Canzone d'Amore, Concerto-Soirée for Piano and Orchestra"

img  Tobias

Whenever the critics make up their minds about the greatest composers of the last century, Nino Rota never seems to be part of the charts. When movie fans, however, are asked to submit their thoughts on the finest writers of soundtracks, he hardly ever misses the top 10. It is a sad dichotomy which, at least for the moment, can not be overcome and will continue until these two trades are finally considered equal. Meanwhile, it is up to dedicated labels like ARTS, conductors such as Massimo de Bernart and pianist Benedetto Lupo to show how worthy of a wider exposure and appreciation Rota's „absolute“ repertoire really is.

In fact, I am quite sure that, if given the chance, it has every chance of attaining a posthumous status comparable to that of Mahler's symphonies. Ironically, Rota was born the year the great sceptic died and has continued a tradition well into the days that using recognisable melodies and harmonies was seriously out of style and considered dated. Now even some of the most prominent protagonists of the Avantgarde have expressed their regret about this mentality of turning their back on their audience, the road is paved for a renewed appreciation of Nino Rota.

His „Sinfonia sopra una Canzone d'Amore“, for one, contains everything a modern listener would expect of a visit to the concert hall: Grand gestures, intoxicating thematic development, wide emotional tension archs and a sensitive lyricism as the seed to a full orchestral sound. In his style, Rota combines a love for classical forms and techniques with a finely nuanced sense of poetry as a return to an art, which is as accessible and human as it is inherently imaginative and impeccably crafted. The booklet calls it „Academic Music“ for its obvious use of transcended archetypes, but it never sets out to teach or transcribe and instead seems to choose its shape for the mere fact of its proven worthiness. In a musical cosmos, which openly eschews anything artificial and stylised, functionality is beauty and quality. If you hear echoes of the past, then so much the better for that!

The second cycle of the disc, the „Concerto-Soiree for Piano and Orchestra“ is the showpiece of Nino Rota's repertoire, a just twenty minute long dialogue between Benedetto Lupo's edgey piano and the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana led by Massimo de Bernart. While the orchestra wallows in alluring tapestries, Lupo accentuates the angularity of his part, the serrated notion of rhythm, which lends the suite a stimulating and arousing scope. Rota was at a temporary pinacle here (he would reach his final acme only in his early 60s) and confident enough to bring the light and energetic work to concert halls everywhere, preferably taking up duties as a soloist himself.

Despite its roots in the early days of digital productions, the recording has kept a warm timbre and an almost nostalgic touch, which fits the composer's frank and cliche-less sentimentality perfectly. Mission accomplished, therefore, if the aim was to show the ongoing validity of Rota's oeuvre to the concert scene of the 21st century. The question of whether he would count as one of the all-time greats had he not chosen the movie connection, of course, remains, but it is, if anything, of academic importance. If he had not composed the „Godfather“ theme for Francis Ford Capella, maybe, people wouldn't even have this stereotypical image of him. But that, after all, doesn't mean he shouldn't have written it.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: ARTS Records

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