Respighi Pines of Rome Program Notes
As a child in Bolognia, Ottorino Respighi began violin lessons with his father. He must have been very good - while concertmaster of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre (in 1899), he studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakoff. While Respighi’s compositional style and techniques are clearly early 20th century, some of his most popular works refer to older music: Renaissance lute pieces in the Ancient Airs and Dances, Baroque-era bird portraits for Gli Ucelli, and Rossini for his ballet La Boutique Fantastique. In Pines, an offstage trumpet solo quotes Gregorian chant from the ninth century (Feast for the Blessed Virgin), and there are many other examples throughout his works. Pines also features additional brass, and in a first, a gramophone recording of a nightingale. Pines of Rome is the middle of three tone poems, preceded by Fountains and followed by Festivals,known as his Roman Trilogy. It was premiered in Italy in 1924, and the work was used in Disney’s Fantasia 2000.
I. The Pines of the Villa Borghese Children are at play in the pine groves of Villa Borghese; they dance round in circles, they play at soldiers, marching and fighting, they are wrought up by their own cries like swallows at evening, they come and go in swarms. Suddenly the scene changes, and...
II. Pines near a catacomb we see the shades of the pine-trees fringing the entrance to a catacomb. From the depth rises the sound of mournful psalm singing, floating through the air like a solemn hymn, and gradually and mysteriously dispersing.
III. The Pines of the Janiculum (Hill)A quiver runs through the air: the pines of the Janiculum stand distinctly outlined in the clear light of a full moon. A nightingale is singing.
IV. The Pines of the Appian Way Misty dawn on the Appian Way: solitary pines guarding the magic landscape; the muffled, ceaseless rhythm of unending footsteps. The poet has a fantastic vision of bygone glories: trumpets sound and, in the brilliance of the newly-risen sun, a consular army bursts forth towards the Sacred Way, mounting in triumph to the Capitol.