September 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Curio Corner

If Only They Had Written (More!) for Films – Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936).


Ottorino Respighi

Fontane di Roma; Feste Romane; Pini di Roma
 Daniele Gatti conducting the Orchestra Dell'Accademia Nazionale Di Sanat Cecilia
 CONIFER 75605 51292 2 [66:00]

La Boutique Fantasque and Rachmaninov-Respighi: Cinq Études-Tableaux
 Jesús López-Cobos conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
 TELARC CD-80396 [66:09]
   Amazon UK   Amazon USA

The Birds; Three Botticelli Pictures; Il Tramonto; Adagio con variazioni.
 Linda Finie (mezzo-soprano) Raphael Wallfisch (cello) and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta conducted by Tamas Vasary
 CHANDOS CHAN 8913 [64:47]
Crotchet    Amazon UK Amazon USA

Ancient Airs and Dances - Suites 1 - 3
 Rico Saccani conducting the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland.
 NAXOS 8.553546 [53:53]
Crotchet   Amazon UK

Concerto Gregoriano; Poema Autunnale for violin and orchestra.
 Takako Nishizaki (violin) Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Choo Hoey
 MARCO POLO 8.220152 [44:20]
  Amazon UK Amazon USA

La Fiamma - opera in 3 Acts.
 Ilona Tokody; Klára Takács; Péter Kelen; Sándor Sólyom-Nagy. The Hungarian Radio and Television Chorus and the Hungarian State Orchestra conducted by Lamberto Gardelli
  HUNGAROTON HCD 12591-93 3 CDs [134:13]

Italian composer Ottorino Respighi died in 1936 just as the original film score for the new sound films was becoming established. Had he lived another ten years or so he may well have been persuaded to write for the silver screen.

And how well qualified he would have been! His music is intensely dramatic, highly evocative and immensely exciting. He is best known for his Roman Trilogy: The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome and Roman Festivals. 'Circennes' (Roman Festivals) would have been very fitting as source music for Gladiator or Spartacus. 'The Pines of the Appian Way', with its evocation of marching Roman Legions would have added great excitement to any Hollywood epic set in Ancient Rome; and the sound picture of 'The Pines of the Janiculum' (depicting the scene on a fragrant moonlight night), would grace a romance such as Roman Holiday.

Respighi's music is often very melodic and accessible. Listen to his arrangements of Rossini's music that is the ballet music - La Boutique Fantasque, for instance. He was greatly influenced by music of antiquity. He put a modern symphonic gloss on ancient forms in works like Concerto Gregoriano for violin and orchestra (again very pictorial music and ideal for scenes of church pomp and magnificence) ; and the lovely Ancient Airs and Dances based on 16th and 17th Italian and French pieces.

Respighi wrote as evocatively for small chamber orchestras as he did for the grander forces of the Roman tone poems. The Birds, based on 17th and 18th century harpsichord and lute music, it cleverly and wittily depicts the dove, the hen, the nightingale and the cuckoo.

Respighi's works for voices are equally impressive. They include many solo songs and a number of settings of poems by Shelley including Il Tramonto (The Sunset). Few realise that Respighi also composed a number of operas. Certainly the large audience I addressed in Scarborough (a seaside in Yorkshire, England) on the subject of Respighi had not and when they heard excerpts form his La Fiamma a colourful and dramatic story of love, jealousy and witchcraft, they were greatly impressed.

If you are interested in learning more about Respighi there is a sub-site devoted to his life and works and you can learn how to join the Respighi Society if you click here.

Ian Lace

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