Éric Le Sage, Emmanuel Pahud & Paul Meyer - Nino Rota: Chamber Music - Gramophone

In addition to his many film scores, Nino Rota also composed numerous concert and stage works as well as working as a faculty member and later director of the Liceo Musicale in Bari for much of his adult life. The chamber works on this album come from the middle and later parts of his composing career. Piccola offerta musicale, composed for wind quintet in 1943 when Rota was 32, was dedicated to Alfredo Casella on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Its pastoral warmth, lyrical freshness and deft scoring make a strong impression despite its duration of only four minutes. Both the Trio for flute, violin and piano of 1958 and the Trio for clarinet, cello and piano from 15 years later are compact works formed of two faster outer movements and a slower central one. The former is notable for the pungency of its opening movement and the seriousness and depth of its Andante, the latter for its quirky humour and melancholic expressiveness.

The longest work in this collection is the Nonetto, which was commissioned in 1957 but not completed until the mid-1970s. Its five movements encompass a variety of styles and moods, and frequently find Rota’s invention striking off in unexpected and rewarding directions. Particularly enjoyable is the third-movement Allegro con spirito, with its ear-catching and haunting Trio section. The collection also includes a small sample of Rota’s writing for piano. The two items from the 15 Preludes of 1964 both convey feelings of mystery and nostalgia, and are among the most cinematic pieces here, although it was in fact the lively and characterful pair of Waltzes on the Name Bach of 1975 that Rota would later put to use in a film soundtrack, namely that of Fellini’s Casanova (1976).

All of the performances here by Alpha’s distinguished line-up of musicians are as involving as they are virtuoso, and the recording is clear and well balanced. If the programme appeals, don’t hesitate.

01 October 2021