Riccardo Muti has done much in the orchestral arena to promote the concert music of Nino Rota who, like most film composers in the middle of the last century, wrote many traditionally ‘classical’ works and longed to be taken seriously as one capable of writing in both populist and more cerebrally satisfying styles. This disc should do much to reinvigorate his reputation as a composer of unfailingly stylish and appealing chamber music which, while never striving towards avant-garde relevance, nonetheless is marked out as music belonging to its own time – around 1950 – with post-Romantic harmonies but also a distinctively propulsive rhythmic signature, creating a tension that may remind us not only of his film music but also the late music of Bartok such as the Concerto for Orchestra.
The Clarinet Trio opens with a quick waltz (here Prokofiev’s influence is apparent) and continues with an elegiac duet
between clarinet and cello, and then a headlong finale. From 1945, the Clarinet Sonata is more Neoclassical and restrained in its language; then comes a very late Allegro danzante composed in 1977. Lo spiritismo nella vecchia casa is a set of
incidental music for solo clarinet, written to underscore a play of the same name by Ugo Betti and structured as a set of brief variations: a form which it shares with the Variations and Fugue in the twelve keys on the name of Bach, also from 1950. These are for solo piano and reveal what a technically gifted pianist Rota himself was: ‘he played the piano like another person talks’, recalled a friend. The fugal finale is of fearsome complexity, worthy of the formidable historical precedent. All three of these musicians are experienced exponents of Rota’s music.
Nino Rota (1911-1979) is mainly known as one of Italy’s most famous film music composers. However, he wrote an impressive and substantial oeuvre of “classical music”, works of great spontaneity, lyricism, and melodic invention. His style is eclectic, with hints of neoclassicism, folklore and remnants of late-romantic nostalgia.
This new recording presents Rota’s Clarinet Sonata, Clarinet Trio, incidental music for clarinet solo and the Variations and Fugue in 12 keys on the name of B.A.C.H., for piano solo.
Played with obvious enjoyment and “brille” by three Italians, clarinettist Rocco Parisi, cellist Andrea Favalessa and pianist Gabriele Rota, son of the composer.