Marzio Conti / Nino Rota

Nino Rota: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

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The concert works of film composer Nino Rota, best known for his scores for the Godfather trilogy and for a long series of films by Federico Fellini, have increasingly often been finding space in classical recording catalogs. Here's a nicely recorded rendering of Rota's two numbered symphonies, virtually unknown until perhaps the turn of the century, issued on a major British label, Chandos. Both are attractive pieces that could be profitably programmed by any symphony orchestra. They were composed in the 1930s, when Rota was as much American as Italian; he won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and studied there for several years. Both reflect the French neo-classic trends that flourished in the U.S. between the wars, and, although Rota sounds nothing like Copland, you do experience in these works an evocation of what annotator Michele René Mannucci aptly calls "landscape in sound." Each work is in the conventional four movements, with a slow movement placed second in the Symphony No. 1 in G major and third in the Symphony No. 2 in F major. The opening movement in each work has a pastoral tinge. The question of whether Rota the celebrated film composer is audible in these symphonies can receive only a qualified answer. Judged from the perspective of Rota's circus-like Fellini scores, the answer is no. But the outer movements especially of each symphony have an episodic, colorful quality strongly suggesting what is to come, and the themes are strong enough throughout to support this kind of structure. The performances by the intricately named Filarmonica '900 del Teatro Regio di Torino under Marzio Conti seem entirely attuned to Rota's style and are crisp, accomplished, and generally a lot of fun. Mannucci's notes are given in French, English, German, and Italian.

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