Nino Rota: The Godfather Waltz

Context

Nino Rota is fondly remembered for his film soundtracks, with The Godfather being at the top of that list. The 1972 film, directed byFrancis Ford Coppola, homes some of Rota’s most memorable music. Rota’s score was initially nominated for an Academy Award, however that was withdrawn due to the ‘Love Theme’ actually being composed for an earlier Rota film. 

The Godfather Waltz, also known as the Main Titles, offers some dark humour and nostalgia, which is ironic due to the themes portrayed in the film. 

 

The Music

The film opens with a black screen, which cues the solo trumpet to start the haunting solo line. This makes the audience’s first engagement with the film purely auditory, making you focus on Rota’s carefully-crafted melody. After the trumpet plays one round of the melody, Bonasera’s monologue begins. Both Bonasera and Vito enter still with the trumpet playing hauntingly in the background. This is the first time that Vito and the trumpet are engaged during the film, and this theme follows Vito around. The trumpet theme is never played without Vito in shot, which keeps these two strongly attached throughout. It is more specifically the trumpet, rather than the melody that links these two. Later in the film this opening melody is heard again, but now on the oboe – with no Vito in sight. 

The haunting minor tonality of the waltz is a real focus of the theme. Rota develops the theme by getting an accordion and cello to play the theme. Now a fully-realised dark-humoured waltz, this opening theme is the first impression the audience get of The Godfather. 

 

Happy Reading!

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