The last meeting of the Society was a presentation by Robin Lim of the music of Nino Rota. He was born in 1911 in Milan and showed early musical talent with an oratorio composed when he was 12. He followed this up with a cello concerto aged 14 and a musical career clearly beckoned. After early training in Italy he came to the notice of Arturo Toscanini in America who arranged for him to further his training in Philadelphia. Whether it was the influence of his dominant mother or for other reasons, he did not finish his training there but returned instead to Milan.
Robin played examples of his compositions which included: a Clarinet Sonata; the overture; Il Cappellodi Paglia di Firenze; Concerto Soiree and excerpts from Il Gattopardo. All the music had strong rhythm and some good melodic interest but perhaps a problem was a lack of a clear ‘voice’ of the composer. One kept hearing echoes of other composers such as Neilsen, Dvorak and even Bruckner. Indeed he was criticised by critics for this but of course ‘borrowing’ themes from other composers is not unknown even by the greats.
It was to film music where he found a degree of fame and success. An early composition was the score for the Glass Mountain and we saw and heard an excerpt from the film. Others included Juliet of the Spirits; 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. Altogether, he wrote some 150 film scores. But the one which will bring him immortality and the music just about everyone can whistle or hum the main theme to, is the score to the Godfather series. It was the highest grossing film of all time. Amazingly, he did not get an Oscar for the score but after an outcry, he did get it for Godfather II but did not attend the ceremony to receive it.
It was an interesting evening and showed again the difficulty of making the leap from prodigy to an established artist. There are so many who show early precocity but developing that to become an original composer (or artist or author) can be the hardest thing.