Nino Rota: Cello Concertos

0 of 5 stars

Nino Rota
Cello Concertos – Nos. 1 (1972) and 2 (1973)

Dmitry Yablonsky (cello)
I Virtuosi Italiani conducted by Daniel Boico

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: June 2001

What a difference a year makes! In 1972, Rota (1911-79) wrote, to my mind, a rather undistinguished cello concerto; the following year he completes an absolute gem. Both are recorded here for the first time. Rota’s claim to fame is his film scores; as we have the opportunity to sample his concert works, then the picture of him is enlarged and he can be re-assessed.

Of these concertos, the first lacks a truly memorable idea; Rota’s neo-classical stance gets in a rut, tense expression not quite sitting with the concerto’s modest aims. Gestures and soloistic scurrying-around inform the first movement; the second is more mood-painting than shapely phrase; the last movement’s rapidity and lyrical second subject fleetingly engage but in a rather trite way.

The second concerto is quite wonderful. Sunny and graceful, Rota immediately bewitches with a coursing rhythm and a soaring melodic profile that continues with witty orchestral exchanges. The unexpected entrance of the soloist is beautifully managed; throughout this charming first movement, Rota’s poetic refinement makes the most of some lovely ideas, the Mozartian springboard (from the G major violin concerto, K216) a constant inspiration.

An extended theme and variations on an elegant tune follows; the commentaries are wide-ranging and inventive – it’s Rota’s resourcefulness (wit to pathos) that is constantly engaging. The skittish finale is the perfect foil to the earlier humour and warmth. This delightful discovery has the most captivating demeanour, lightly and entrancingly scored. The sympathetic performances are excellently recorded.

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