It's great to see the music of Nino Rota getting so much attention. He was a wonderful composer, and the ballet suite from La strada may be his orchestral masterpiece (just a quick note: the French language title identifies this as a suite from the eponymous film; it is in fact the more familiar arrangement of the later ballet). There are now four competitive recordings of this piece, the least interesting of which is on Chandos with the Teatro Massimo orchestra: not bad, but not as well played or recorded as either Muti's slightly stiff version with the excellent La Scala forces, or Atma's brilliant recent release featuring the Greater Montréal Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin. All of the couplings differ in various ways, though Muti also has the dances from Il gattopardo (The Leopard).
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Partly composed on cantus firmus derived from plainchant, the Missa Rex Virginum is one of two that have survived from the pen of Juan de Anchieta, composer to the Catholic Monarchs, and is a typcial representative of the new style that Josep Cabré likes to call 'late Gothic', already at the dawn of the Renaissance. Anchieta, an emblematic yet still little-known figure of Basque music, had considerable influence in his own time thanks to his close relationship with the Castilian crown.
The second son of Martín García de Anchieta and Urtayzaga de Loyola, who was a great-aunt of the future saint, Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, members of a leading family in the Basque country, Juan de Anchieta was born in 1462 near Azpeitia in Guipúzcoa in the Iraurgui valley. Although there is no information about his formative years, it is possible that he served as a chorister in the chapel of Henry IV of Castile and perhaps studied at Salamanca University, where Diego de Fermoselle, an elder brother of Juan del Encina, taught. In 1489 he was appointed as a singer in the Court Chapel of Queen Isabella the Catholic, with a salary of 20,000 maravedís, increased in 1493 to 30,000 maravedís. In 1495 he was appointed maestro di capilla to the Prince Don Juan. After the death of the Prince in 1497 he returned to the service of the Queen, to be ……
Second in popularity only to the Ninth Symphony "From the New World," Dvorák's Twelfth String Quartet – which was dubbed the "American" Quartet by the public and media rather than the composer himself – is a work nearly synonymous with the composer's tenure in the United States. These were not the only two works inspired by his cross-sea voyage, however. The Thirteenth String Quartet in G major, Op. 106, though not imbued with the same folkloric characteristics, also came about following the composer's return from the States. The popularity of the "American" Quartet has resulted in a work that is arguably overplayed, making it difficult for new ensembles to find anything new or unique to say about it.