A review of music written using Latin texts in service of the liturgy of the Catholic Church encompassing music written in all periods with a concentration on contemporary composers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nino Rota

Rota, Nino. Custodi nos, Domine. (s.a./ organ) Mainz: Schott, 2010.

Schott would seem to be digging deep into their Rota archives with some delightful surprises. Part of the aim of Jubal's Review is to make some of the less difficult modern Latin choral works better known. In this case we have an example of perfect simplicity, catering for small resources, but still carrying the composer's trademark good balance and appealing sense of melody. Nino Rota (1911-1979) had a long career as a film music composer and academic. Whilst it is the film music that is most remembered (he produced up to thirteen scores a year) there is a considerable body of stage and concert hall music. The liturgical music was a surprise to me, certainly in the amount he seems to have produced.

Whilst the publication date of Custodi nos, Domine is 2010 I suspect that this small piece, two pages only, has been 'sourced' from either a quite early work of Rota or is something recently rediscovered. It is possible that it was prepared for one of his film scores. A recording was made in 2005 on the Italian Nota label. There is quite a bit of this composer's work suitable for liturgical use, including a Missa Brevis. Often these are settings for single voice employing a range which would not be easy for choral use however among the material being issued however this piece would seem to be immediately useable. The score specifies women's voices however I could imagine it being used with trebles for a 'boys only' Vespers motet. The text itself is a composite taken from Psalm 16 (as found in the Compline responsory) and Psalm 133.

Custodi nos, Domine is set in a simple 'rondo' form and follows Rota's pattern of passing quickly through some enharmonic changes in the 'B' and 'C' sections before returning to the tonic. Part of the attraction of the setting is the constant flowing movement achieved through the imitative phrases, and suspensions, between the voices. The 'B' and 'C' sections are set for a single line. It really is a very elegant little piece. The vocal writing is quite easy and well within standard ranges. The accompaniment is presented as manuals only however it's quite obvious that in the 'full' sections some judicial pedalling could be very effective.

Whilst Schott normally requires multiple copies to be ordered (10 in this case) individual copies seem to be available on the shelf of their outlets. The London shop is at 48 Great Marlborough St.

Dom Alban Nunn

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