Sunday, July 9, 8879
Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) - Of Rome
Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)
The Pines of Rome (1924)
IV. Pines of the Appian Way
Composer, musicologist, and conductor Ottorino Respighi (July 9, 1879, Bologna, Italy - April 18, 1936) is best known for his orchestral Roman trilogy: Fontane di Roma - "Fountains of Rome"; Pini di Roma - "Pines of Rome"; and Feste Romane - "Roman Festivals." His musicological interest in 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century music led him to also compose pieces based on the music of this period.
Born in Bologna, he studied composition with Giuseppe Martucci, and briefly with Max Bruch and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Principally a violinist until 1908, he then turned primarily to composition. He lived in Rome from 1913.
Ottorino Respighi was taught piano and violin by his father, who was a local piano teacher. He continued studying violin and viola with Federico Sarti at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, composition with Giuseppe Martucci, and historical studies with Luigi Torchi, a scholar of early music. In 1900, Respighi went to Russia to be principal violist in the orchestra of the Russian Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg during its season of Italian opera; while there he studied composition for five months with Rimsky-Korsakov. He also had composition lessons with Max Bruch in 1902 in Berlin. Until 1908 his principal activity was as first violin in the Mugellini Quintet, before turning his attention entirely to composition.
Respighi moved to Rome in 1913 and lived there for the rest of his life, after being appointed a teacher of composition at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia. He married a former pupil, singer Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo, in 1919. From 1923 to 1926 he was director of the Conservatorio. In 1925 he collaborated with Sebastiano Arturo Luciani on an elementary textbook entitled Orpheus.
Respighi maintained an uneasy relationship with Mussolini's Fascist Party during his later years. He vouched for more outspoken critics such as Arturo Toscanini, allowing them to continue to work under the regime.
Feste Romane, the third part of his Roman trilogy, was premiered by Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1929; Toscanini recorded the music twice for RCA Victor, first with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1942 and then with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1949, and RCA released both versions, first on LP and then CD. Respighi's music had considerable success in the USA: the Toccata for piano and orchestra was premiered (with Respighi as soloist) under Willem Mengelberg with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in November 1928, and the large-scale theme and variations entitled Metamorphoseon was a commission for the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In his role as musicologist, Respighi was also an enthusiastic scholar of Italian music of the 16th-18th centuries. He published editions of the music of Claudio Monteverdi and Antonio Vivaldi, and of Benedetto Marcello's Didone. Because of his devotion to these older figures and their styles of composing, it is tempting to see him as a typical exponent of Neo-classicism. In fact, Neo-Renaissance, or Neo-Baroque would probably more accurately describe his compositions that are based on earlier work. Respighi generally kept clear of the musical idiom of the classical period, unlike most neo-classical composers. He preferred combining pre-classical melodic styles and musical forms (like dance suites) with typical late 19th-century romantic harmonies and textures.
He died in his Roman villa named "I Pini." A year after his burial, his remains were moved to his birthplace Bologna and reinterred at the city's expense.
[8880 Mariachi / 8879 Respighi / 8876 Falla]