Trio for flute, violin and piano (1958)
Valzer Sul Nome Bach (1975)
Piccola Offerta Musicale (1943)
Trio for cello, clarinet and piano (1973)
Prelude XIII; Prelude II (from 15 Preludes) (1964)
Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Eric Le Sage (piano), Daishin Kashimoto (violin), Paul Meyer (clarinet), François Meyer (oboe), Gilbert Audin (bassoon), Benoît de Barsony (horn), Joaquín Riquelme García (viola), Claudio Bohórquez (cello), Aurélien Pascal (cello), Olivier Thiery (double bass),
Alpha ALPHA746 [62’25”]
Producer and Engineer Jean-Marc Laisné
Recorded 6-7 August 2020 at La Courroie, Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue, France
Written by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Nino Rota might be best known for his film scores, but a cursory exploration of his output reveals a whole lot more to his make-up. Most collections of his music tend to explore the orchestral works, which makes this release from Alpha of the chamber music even more gratifying. Their chosen selection ranges from works for one player (some of Rota’s small output for piano) to the substantial Nonet, a work which occupied the composer for more than two decades. The recordings were made by a group of illustrious soloists, headed by flautist Emmanuel Pahud and pianist Eric Le Sage.
What’s the music like?
The programme chosen here offers a very satisfying portrait of Rota the composer, and in particular the breadth of his work.
The Nonet is the principal piece, a substantial work at nearly half an hour in length. It is written for the same combination of nine instruments used by Martinů in his Nonet – flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass.
Complementing this are two trios of roughly similar size. The Trio for flute, violin and piano of 1958 has a lively and unexpectedly driven first movement, initially surprising in its density but revealing a tender underside. The second movement takes more time for thought but soon the energy is back for a quick third movement, like the first two with some attractive tune-making.
The Trio for clarinet, cello and piano dates from 15 years earlier. I am surprised this combination of instruments hasn’t proved more popular since Beethoven, and this piece enjoys the interweaving of colours. The second theme in the march-like first movement is particularly attractive, with Russian flavouring to these ears. It is followed by an eloquent slow movement and a playful finale which trips along mischievously.
The short pieces here are rather lovely, none more so than the Piccola Offerta Musicale, written to mark the 60th birthday of Alfredo Casella in 1943. An attractive piece with a fountain of ideas, it is beautifully coloured and moves from slow, relatively sombre thoughts to bubbly exchanges.
Finally Eric Le Sage adds some excerpts from Rota’s small body of work for piano – two perky Valzer Sul Nome Bach, playing with Bach’s name in musical form (B – A – C – H (B flat) and two of the Fifteen Preludes from 1964. A graceful Prelude XIII and contemplative Prelude II provide a thoughtful postscript to the collection.
Does it all work?
Yes. The programming is ideal, and Rota’s colour combinations are consistently appealing, as is his ability to write a number of good tunes. His engaging development of them shows his ability as a composer of music in a more serious format, though it has to be said there is nothing staid at all about these works, happily!
Is it recommended?
It is, enthusiastically. Rota’s music is full of positive energy and lyricism, but it has depth too. The performances are all excellent, and contribute to the appeal of a disc which stands up really well to repeated listening. A fine achievement filling a gap in the repertoire that has been there all too long.
You can discover more about this release at the Outhere website, where you can also purchase the recording.