Rota: Violin Sonata; Viola Sonata,

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Violin Sonata; Viola Sonata,
PERFORMER: Ensemble Nino Rota/Massimo Palumbo (piano)
Only months after ASV’s selection of chamber music by Nino Rota, which I reviewed in the May issue, here is another disc to prove that his output was not restricted to his highly effective film scores. This one is by an expert Milanese group, newly formed by the pianist Massimo Palumbo. Its programme overlaps with ASV’s in the two postwar trios; at slightly slower speeds, Chandos’s Ensemble Nino Rota gets rather more out of these essays in very mild modernism than ASV’s Ex Novo Ensemble. Chandos complements the trios with two pre-war duos, a very Brahmsian Viola Sonata and a Violin Sonata of more personal lyricism: both are ardently played by Suela Mullaj. ASV’s programme is a more varied and more colourful survey of Rota’s whole career, and as such may just deserve the warmer recommendation. Either way, though, I can’t escape the feeling that, for all Rota’s skilful instrumental writing and generosity of melodic invention (and pace the ludicrously hyperbolic claims of Chandos’s annotator), this is pretty minor stuff. It seems a pity that so much effort is being devoted to it when major works by much greater composers – not least Rota’s near-contemporary Dallapiccola – are still missing from the catalogue. Anthony Burton