Rota: Symphony No. 3 in C; Concerto festivo; Le Molière imaginaire

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WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in C; Concerto festivo; Le Molière imaginaire
PERFORMER: Norrköping SO/Ole Kristian Ruud, Hannu Koivula
Nino Rota’s reputation outside Italy as, at best, a civilised purveyor of minor theatre music is turning out to be hardly even a half-truth. BIS’s series of his symphonic and chamber works, and Chandos’s of the concertos, reveals a composer of incisive gifts and technical brilliance. Civilised the music certainly is, but often far more than that, its pervasive wit enhancing rather than detracting from the elegant suggestions of deep feeling. The wise and wily ‘neo-classicism’ of the Third Symphony sets out like an exercise


in updated Mozart, but though Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony is brought to mind it soon becomes evident that a strain of acid melancholy undercuts the dapper phraseology. The model here, if there is one, seems more likely to be late Busoni, with disturbing cross-currents just beneath the surface. The Concerto festivo, more obviously a display piece, takes Italian opera genres (aria, cabaletta, etc) and reinterprets them in fairly irreverent orchestral terms, while the ballet music that Rota produced for the tercentenary of the death of Molière – almost his last work –insouciantly mixes Baroque, modern and popular styles, just as it mixes merriment and melancholy, with constant technical brilliance and utter lack of pomposity. The Swedish performers take to the Italianate gaiety as to the manner born. A delightful disc. Calum MacDonald