This is good! Eighty-one minutes of Nino Rota’s music for the films of Federico Fellini – played superbly by the La Scala Philharmonic, conducted with relish and affection by Riccardo Chailly (he first met the composer in 1974), and given vivid, up-front sound-quality, albeit with a resonant overhang in tow.
The film music of Rota (1911-79, he wrote for the concert-hall and opera-house, too), whatever its merits in complementing the moving image, transcends the silver-screen medium for listening pleasure on its own terms (although a caveat might be a certain sameness across the whole).
Amarcord opens the show, saxophones, brass, an accordion and a mandolin to the fore (Rota’s original orchestration is used) – smoochy (this is a La Scala love-in), marching-bands (La Scala players know how to swagger), popular-song a mainstay (Stormy Weather being one), and if your dance-card isn’t full, take your partners, for Rota can tango-hoof it with the best of them.
He can also be relied upon for description, atmosphere, tunefulness, foot-tapping rhythms and a palette of colour that is generously broad-brushed. Take 8½ (Otto e Mezzo), dripping in picturesque sentiment and electric emotions, tinged ethereally – music that rip-roars and seduces in equal measure – and with the purloining of another well-known ditty (The Sheik of Araby, from 1921, perchance?) and a movement that owes to Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance.
The score for La dolce vita (as arranged into Suite form by William Ross, who also upgrades Amarcord for the final track) is immensely stirring and powerful, lyrically entrancing too, not forgetting hot-swing (trumpet and sax). As for Fellini’s Casanova, the music for it is sometimes like the aural equivalent of a distorting mirror, aided by Bruno Moretti’s scoring which includes harpsichord and bass guitar; there’s an off-kilter waltz, and much that is whimsical and always attractive, edgy and confrontational too, a range of emotions and situations – makes me want to see the film!
Finally, The Clowns – if you like Shostakovich in Dance/Film/Jazz mode (Chailly already has a trio of such Albums available), then you are in business; the music tumbles along irresistibly along, with an element of exotic buffoonery, and introducing Fučík’s Entry of the Gladiators (circus music par excellence) – a bit of a Thieving Magpie was Rota, but not from Rossini (that I came across here).
The release date is June 7 – please form an orderly queue at the box-office.