Giovanna Canta Nino Rota

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This is an interesting release for the many listeners whose ears have been snared by one of film composer Nino Rota's memorable melodies. But those coming to it from an appreciation for Italian vocalist, composer, and actress Giovanna (Giovanna Nocetti) should be apprised that of the 23 tracks on the album, only seven feature her singing. The rest are small-group instrumental arrangements of numbers from Rota's scores, either assembled into suites or simply excerpted. Rota may be best known in the Western hemisphere for his scores for the two Godfather films, but the focus here is on the Italian phase of his career, above all on his work with Federico Fellini. Rota wrote the scores for each of Fellini's feature-length films, from The White Sheik (1952) until Orchestra Rehearsal, the last one completed before Rota's death in 1979. Music plays an important role in all of them, and such films as The Nights of Cabiria and especially Amarcord are hard to imagine without Rota's contribution: his music sets the carnival atmosphere so important to the filmmaker's ideas. It is Rota's genius that his music can both set this atmosphere and yet be a little bit distant from it (and the same is true of the gangster milieu he helped Francis Ford Coppola create in the Godfather films). Whether his music stands on its own is another question. But he certainly was responsible for some memorable melodies, both in the songs rendered by Giovanna (mostly sung by minor characters) and in the instrumental selections. The last set of pieces comes not from Fellini but from Luchino Visconti's The Leopard (1973), a historical epic; Rota's music for this, filled with dances and pageantry, is entirely different in flavor from the Fellini scores. The arrangements for the 14-member Rota Ensemble, mostly by conductor Nicol Scardicchio, effectively reduce Rota's symphonic scores to chamber dimensions. An interesting find for Rota fans, even if what you see isn't quite what you get.

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