Nino Rota’s First Symphony: Sweeping Cinematic Grandeur

Nino Rota is remembered as one of the great film composers of the twentieth century. Born in Milan, Rota lived in Rome for most of his life. From 1933 until his death in 1979, he wrote scores for more than 150 films, including Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954), Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968), and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). Fellini, who worked with Rota for decades said,

The most precious collaborator I have ever had, I say it straightaway and don’t even have to hesitate, was Nino Rota — between us, immediately, a complete, total, harmony … He had a geometric imagination, a musical approach worthy of celestial spheres. He thus had no need to see images from my movies. When I asked him about the melodies he had in mind to comment one sequence or another, I clearly realized he was not concerned with images at all. His world was inner, inside himself, and reality had no way to enter it.

Less well known is the concert music of Nino Rota, which includes four symphonies, eleven operas, piano concerti, choral works, and chamber music. Symphony No. 1 in G Major was composed between 1935 and 1939, following Rota’s two years of study in the United States at the Curtis Institute of Music. It is music filled with bright Mediterranean colors and sweeping cinematic grandeur. There is little hint of the concurrent fascist horrors of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic. Instead, we are swept into the kind of magical “inner world” perceived by Fellini. Rota’s inaugural Symphony feels like a virtual film score. It hovers in midair, enveloping us in atmosphere and occasionally revealing magnificent, expansive vistas. There are fleeting passages which seem to pay subtle homage to the chant, modal harmony, and pristine polyphony of early music. Most importantly, Rota’s First Symphony is a celebration of orchestral color, in all of its lush, sublime radiance.

I. Allegro con moto:

II. Andante:

III. Allegro vivace:

IV. Largo maestoso – Poco più andante – Allegro:

Recordings

Featured Image: the cityscape of Rome 

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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