For U.S. listeners, the name Nino Rota will inevitably conjure that of the film The Godfather, and even in Rota's native Italy, he will be strongly associated with the CinecittÃ studio and with directors such as Fellini and Visconti. Like other film composers, he wrote a good deal of concert music, but it has generally not received the same attention as that of, say, Erich Korngold or John Williams. This set of chamber pieces, performed by a crack group of players mostly from the Berlin Philharmonic, is thus especially welcome. The melodic genius of Rota's film scores is clearly audible in the slow movements, such as the Andante from the beautifully balanced Trio for cello, clarinet, and piano, but what's really remarkable is the depth of Rota's musical thinking in an essentially neoclassic mold. He is a step or two less bracing than Stravinsky but no less intricate. Consider the five-movement Nonetto, which has something of the spirit of Mozart's large pieces of wind music where great erudition is packed into a light exterior; the fourth-movement variation set is especially elegant. For chamber players especially, this album will be an essential set of rediscoveries, and it's good enough to spur further exploration of his concert works. Why not a revival of one of his operas, now that it's possible to perform Romantic music again? This album will also satisfy those who come to it as fans of The Godfather.
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