Ottorino Respighi

(1879 - 1936)

Audio Selections

Major Orchestral Works

1902    Piano Concerto

1914    Sinfonia drammatica

1916    Fountains of Rome

1917    Ancient Airs and Dances Suite 1

1919    La boutique fantasque

1921    Concerto gregoriano for Violin and Orchestra

1923    Ancient Airs and Dances Suite 2

1924    Pines of Rome

1925    Concerto for Piano in the Mixolydian Mode

1925    Poema autunnale for Violin and Orchestra

1925    Church Windows

1925    Rossiniana

1927    The Birds

1927    Trittico botticelliano

1928    Impressioni brasiliane

1928    Toccata for Piano and Orchestra

1928    Roman Festivals

1931    Ancient Airs and Dances Suite 3

1934    Belkis, Queen of Sheba Suite

Pines of Rome (1924)



Ah, Italy!  The very name conjures forth images of Imperial Rome, the gently rolling hills of Tuscany, the amazing Mediterranean coast, and…..opera. Italy is the land of the voice, where vocal music has always reigned supreme. Since the birth of opera in 1600, Italians have emphasized the vocal element in music.  We search in vain for symphonic Italian composers from the time of Beethoven until….Respighi.  As you will hear in the audio examples, here we have a figure of major importance in the history of Italian music.

Respighi Video Links

Feste Romane, last movement

Offered here is a fine performance of the last movement of Feste Romane, with Massimo Zanetti conducting the NHK Symphony in Tokyo (2008). An elegant conductor! Fine playing, as well.

Feste Romane, for Band

Just when you think you have seen and heard everything, something like this comes up: a version of Feste Romane for band (with cellos and basses!). Wow, that is a LOT of clarinets! I think it actually works pretty well for band….Comments? Do you like the saxophones?

Pines of Rome with Berlin Philharmonic

I maintain that Pines of Rome is the loudest piece of music ever composed, and here we have a rousing rendition of the final movement, performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (in Osaka!). I have friends who play in the Berlin Philharmonic, and they always tell me that it was impossible to follow von Karajan’s beat: the orchestra followed the Concertmaster! He conducted the essence of the music…

Arturo Toscanini Conducting Respighi

Wow! This is a MUST-SEE! You will recall from the audio commentary that Arturo Toscanini was the conductor who helped establish the international success and fame of Ottorino Respighi. Here is rare footage of the century’s greatest conductor (by many accounts) performing the last movement of Pines of Rome. Please compare with the von Karajan rendition! Amazing difference in tempos! Toscanini was the tyrant of the orchestra, who was known to physically assault players on occasion, and who openly defied Mussolini and refused to conduct in Nazi Germany. His famous comment was “If I was capable of killing a man, I would kill Mussolini.” He was 85 when this footage was filmed.

Adagio con variazione

An example of a rarely-heard work by Respighi, the Adagio con variazione, performed by Misha Maisky.  Does this sound like the composer of Pines of Rome and Feste Romane?  Respighi had a very eclectic style and was easily able to compose music of archaic and Neo-Classic style.

The Birds

Respighi’s The Birds (Gli uccelli) has always been one of my favorite works of the composer. Here is the opening movement in a ballet performance. Much of the later music of Respighi is based on themes from earlier musical periods, such as the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Ancient Airs and Dances

For those art-lovers out there I offer here an interesting example of music and art together: Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances with paintings of the great Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio as a backdrop.  It is always good to have a multi-disciplinary approach to the arts!  WARNING: there are some disturbing paintings here!

La boutique fantasque

Respighi’s ballet La boutique fantasque (The Magic Toy Shop) is seen here in a staged production.  The original music was by Rossini, and was wonderfully arranged and orchestrated by Respighi in 1919.

Pines of Rome with Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra

We end with a brilliant performance of the first movement of The Pines of Rome, with the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra.

Although Respighi is most famous for his tryptich of tone poems based on Roman themes (Pines of Rome, Fountains of Rome, and Roman Festivals), his output encompasses a wide variety of genres and styles, most of which is rarely heard these days. The purpose of these audio clips is to introduce you to the broad scope of the composer’s  life-work, and to elucidate some of the key elements and influences at play in his compositions.

Feste Romane (1928)



Roman Festivals of 1928 was the third of Respighi’s trilogy of symphonic poems inspired by the city of Rome, preceded by The Fountains of Rome in 1916 and The Pines of Rome in 1923. During the dozen years that he composed this triptych, he had become one of the leading musical figures of the time and, after he left his teaching post at the Saint Cecilia Academy in Rome in 1925, devoted himself to composing and touring.