Rota: Symphony No. 3

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Concerto soirée; Divertimento concertante
PERFORMER: Davide Botto (double-bass), Barry Douglas (piano); Filarmonica ’900 del Teatro Regio, Turin/Gianandrea Noseda

Time-travelling amiably between Mozart and the soundworld of the film La Strada, the concert music of Nino Rota is hard to pigeonhole (a 20th-century Rossini? an Italian Poulenc, perhaps – but with a touch of neo-classical Busoni?) but very easy to enjoy. Wit abounds, sentiment is worn unashamedly on the sleeve, but everything is trimly turned out, beautifully scored, and nothing outstays its welcome.
The biggest and most remarkable work here is the Divertimento concertante (1968-73), actually a four-movement double-bass concerto that puts the instrument (magnificently played here by Davide Botto) through prodigious feats of bravura and unexpected lyric appeal. The 1961 Concerto soirée, as the title rather suggests, is a particularly relaxed kind of piano concerto: four lively, balletic dances surrounding a luscious central Romanza. Barry Douglas makes the most of a piano part that eschews heroics but responds to sympathetic and intelligent musicianship. The Third Symphony (1957) is deftly and knowingly neo-classical (here’s where the Busoni affinities are clearest). There’s already an excellent version on BIS, from the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Ole Kristian Ruud, but Noseda’s equally lively version is very welcome, and the two concertos are premiere recordings. All the participants sound as if they’re enjoying themselves hugely. In its way, irresistible. Calum MacDonald