Rota Film Music EMI 5749872

Déjà Review: this was first published as a Film Music review in March 2002 and the recording is still available.

Nino Rota (1911-1979)
Compilation of Film Music
Guerra e Pace (War and Peace) (1956)
Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (1963)
La Strada (The Street) (1954)
Waterloo (1970)
Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra/Gianluigi Gelmetti
rec. 1991, Auditorium Rainier III, Centre de Congrès, Monte-Carlo
EMI Classics CDE 5 74987 2  [59]

This compilation was first released by EMI in 1992. Its reappearance is very welcome for this is first class film music. In fact, I would count Rota’s inspiring score for Il gattopardo amongst my top ten favourite film scores of all time. It is given a bravura performance here by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, although I have to say I prefer the more complete suite played again with great elan by the Filarmonica della Scala (Milan) conducted by Riccardo Muti on Sony SK63359. Visconti’s film starred Burt Lancaster in one of his best roles as a Sicilian aristocrat struggling to maintain his traditions and keep abreast of changing times during the era of the Risorgimento – the movement towards the unification of Italy – when Garibaldi and his thousand ‘Red Shirts’ invaded Sicily in May 1860. The score has a wonderful heroic/romantic sweep that is irresistible.

The other items in this compilation do not overlap with the Sony compilation, but complement it, so readers can safely invest in this album. From King Vidor’s War and Peace we have plaintive folk-like material reflecting the sufferings of the invaded Russian people. Followed by the daintily romantic ‘Rose of Novgorod’ and the end credits that close on a note of victory and celebratory bells. Much of Rota’s score for Waterloo ended on the cutting room floor, but here we have stirring battle music and the glittering but brittle waltz from the eve-of-battle ball.

The most significant item and worth the price of this CD alone is the seven-movement ballet suite for La strada inspired by, but not written for Fellini’s film. This is a very powerful piece with that heart-rending theme captured on that lone melancholic trumpet. Rota’s magnificent score captures all the dark tragic drama and quirky comic poignancy of the circus people on the road.

A quibble – the booklet notes are too brief about the actual music – one page is scarcely sufficient; too much space is given over to promoting other reissues in this Angel “encore” series.

Ian Lace

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Mark Hockley adds another opinion –

To give a sense of balance for those who may not be quite so captivated by the style of music on offer here, I should add that Rota’s scores are very much in the classical tradition. In fact, his work on The Leopard could easily have been a ballet itself. The only real exception to this are some of the cues from Waterloo, particularly the final track, which has some powerful, typically cinematic moments. Rota is unquestionably a talented composer, but his work here may not necessarily appeal to the more modern-minded of film music fans. When taking this into consideration, I think it’s fair to say that if your taste leans toward classical European music, then you will adore this. But if not, it may prove less engaging, allowing for the fact that you can’t fault it on either an artistic or technical level.

Mark Hockley