A while ago I ordered a CD of Nino Rota’s first two symphonies, on the Chandos label. I must’ve read an interesting review in Gramophone magazine and wanted to try it. What gorgeous music! During long drives on I-70 between our home and my daughter’s college, this CD was one of my favorites. The music is very uplifting and, to me, seems to depict pastoral landscapes in the various melodic motifs and rhythms. In the slow passages, there is just enough poignancy and longing to make me feel happy and nostalgic rather than blue.
So I wasn’t surprised when the CD booklet indicated that Rota (1911-1979) had been attracted to the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, my favorite composer. I was surprised, however, to learn that Rota had written the familiar music for The Godfather I and II, and also for Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. I hadn't thought about who had composed that familiar music. During a prolific career he wrote music for films by Zeffirelli, Visconti, Fellini, King Vidor, Coppola, and other directors, including La Strada, La Dolce Vita, 8-1/2, Death on the Nile, and many others.
I like that the liner notes say: “He wrote more than one hundred film scores and as many ‘serious’; i.e. non-cinematic works, but never embraced a dictatorial intellectualism that would have forced an abrupt change of style every time he found himself writing for the concert hall and the operatic stage. Instead he always maintained intact that poetic neoclassicism, imaginative and slightly retro, which in the end, perhaps because of his evidence genuineness, earned him the love both of the general public and the most demanding critics.”
I also love this Rota quote from his biography on Wikipedia: "When I’m creating at the piano, I tend to feel happy; but - the eternal dilemma - how can we be happy amid the unhappiness of others? I'd do everything I could to give everyone a moment of happiness. That's what's at the heart of my music."
Here are these two symphonies on YouTube. Number one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA0vjP44ZS0 Number two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xnZDNDnQuM&feature=relmfu