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

Performance 4.5*

Indelible memories of Rota's film scores for Fellini, Visconti, Zeffirelli, and Coppola have obscured his reputation as a composer of merit. Of the close to 100 albums on Tidal and/or Qobuz that contain Rota's music, only a handful are devoted to his classical compositions. While Rota never aspired to the timeless profundity of Beethoven, his artfully crafted chamber music displays an endearing mastery of color, whimsy, delight, and melancholy.

This recording, set down in the confined acoustic of the Salon Festival International de Musique de Chambre de Provence, features pianist Éric Le Sage, clarinetist Paul Meyer, flutist Emmanuel Pahud, violinist Daishin Kashimoto, and seven other players. Nine are at their colorful best in 24+ minute Nonetto, which took almost 20 years to complete. In this mature work by a protégé of Toscanini, you'll hear shades of Fellini in the first movement, and an Italian version of the Keystone Kops running through the final Vivacissimo(!). But in between, you'll experience some lovely, touching, and unquestionably endearing music. I especially enjoyed the big buildup to nowhere at the end of the second movement.

Rota was already known for his film scores when his second emergence as a promising classical composer took place in 1943, when he was 32, with the arrival of the Piccola offerta musicale. Dedicated to one of his teachers, Alfredo Casella, the 4-minute work displays a delicious understanding of instrumental color. The Trio for flute, violin, and piano is a far more serious work, at least at the start, and each short piano prelude is a gem. Strongly recommended.

01 August 2021