Ottorino Respighi

Ancient Airs and Dances Suite III

            A kernel of truth often lies in a cliché, and that is so for the old saw that through the centuries Italian musical culture has preferred and been more successful in vocal music than in instrumental.   There are of course many and notable exceptions, and Ottorino Respighi is a case in point.  After Puccini, it is said, he was the most successful and popular Italian composer of the twentieth century, and his reputation is still rather high, today.   He was a prolific composer, active in most genres, including song and opera, but in this country, at least, his reputation has lain in less than a half dozen works for symphonic orchestra composed in the 1920s.

Piano Concerto in A Minor, op. 40

            A kernel of truth often lies in a cliché, and that is so for the old saw that through the centuries Italian musical culture has preferred and been more successful in vocal music than instrumental.   There are of course many and notable exceptions, and Ottorino Respighi is a case in point.  After Puccini, it is said, he was the most successful and popular Italian composer of the twentieth century, and his reputation is still rather high, today.   He was a prolific composer, active in most genres, including song and opera, but in this country, at least, his reputation has lain in less than a half dozen works for symphonic orchestra composed in the 1920s.

Pines of Rome, P. 141

            After Respighi moved permanently to Rome in 1913--at the time, a center of orchestral concerts in Italy--he turned more attention to the composition of instrumental music.  His first big success was the symphonic poem, Fountains of Rome, from 1916, although it did not garner accolades immediately.  But, by the early 1920s it was fast becoming an international hit, and he was on his way to world-wide recognition—not to speak of a much more secure financial future.  He followed up on this success with two more symphonic poems evocative of his home:  Pines of Rome (1924) and Roman Festivals (1926).  Collectively, they are often known as his “Roman trilogy.”  They all are showpieces for orchestra, spectacular evidence of his mastery of orchestration, v