Nino Rota: Harp Concerto


Although famed for his film scores, Nino Rota also wrote a collection of other works that were not linked to film. His 1947 Harp Concerto is a fantastic example of Rota’s sensitive and lyrical writing as he composes for a naturally elegant instrument. The concerto is popular amongst harpists, with new recordings being launched in recent years. 


The Music

Set into three movements, Rota shines a different character light onto the soloist at every turn.


Movement I – Allegro moderato

Opening with a serene landscape, the harp leads the orchestral into this almost pastorale theme. The syncopated main theme is shadowed by the woodwind as the soloist immerses into the orchestra. The 2-3 theme is the main melodic kernel for this movement, with it being represented by most sections of the orchestra at least once. The exciting twists and turns keeps the music agile and exciting whilst the harp decorates above. Lots of call and response passages play out in this movement, which keeps the communication between the soloist and the orchestra intricate and agile. The sparkling harp sits at the forefront of the movement, with fast runs and quick glissandi shining across the orchestra. After a quick reprise of the theme, the movement concludes quietly.


Movement II – Andante

The slow middle movement is lyrical and opens with a broad string theme. The harp sits in the middle of the texture here as the music ripples across the orchestra. The sparkling middle section sees the harp move to the top of the texture as it reaches new heights in its range. After a solemn trumpet solo, the movement concludes quietly. 


Movement III – Allegro

The quick finale movement opens with a string theme played in unison. The quick interval changes paired with the changing time signatures creates a chaotic atmosphere. The intricate interplay between the harp and orchestra reaches new complexities in this movement as the two voices bounce off of each other effectively. The tempo drives forward as the lower strings keep the bassline chugging. The solo trumpet rears its head once more as the harp slips back into the middle of the mix. A virtuosic harp cadenza ensues as the soloist shows off the capabilities of the instrument. This leads into the peppy coda which sees the concerto conclude with a cheeky woodwind flourish. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns 

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Arnold Schoenberg: Notturno for Strings and Harp


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