Francesco D'Orazio / Giampaolo Nuti

A Sentimental Devil: Complete Works for Violin/Viola and Piano by Nino Rota

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Nino Rota's reputation rests firmly on his music for classic films by Luchino Visconti, Franco Zefferelli, Francis Ford Coppola, and perhaps most famously and prolifically, the 80 scores he composed for Federico Fellini. However, like many other film composers, Rota was trained to write classical concert music, so his output includes numerous operas, ballets, concertos, symphonies, choral works, and chamber music. This Stradivarius album by violinist and violist Francesco d'Orazio and pianist Giampaolo Nuti shines a light on some sonatas and short pieces that are not as celebrated as his film scores, but are worth investigating for their charm and color. The Violin Sonata in G major (1937) and the Viola Sonata in C major (1945) are the most substantial pieces, followed by the somewhat slighter Viola Sonata in G major (1934), and all three works show Rota's light touch and aptitude for making lyrical lines over simple harmonic progressions sound interesting. The shorter pieces, such as the Improvviso in C major, "A sentimental devil," (1969), the Intermezzo in B minor (1945), the Improvviso in D minor (from the soundtrack of Amanti senza amore) (1947), and the Legend of the Glass Mountain (1948) all show a common tonal language that includes mildly spicy harmonies but largely stays in the cosmopolitan neo-classical style. D'Orazio and Nuti perform with grace and verve, and the program is nicely balanced between virtuosity and expressiveness.

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