Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Respighi's 'Pini di Roma'

Ottorino Respighi
1879 - 1936
After writing a review of the work for a university tutorial, I thought I would add my analysis of Respighi's 'Pini di Roma' to the list of posts for my blog.

Ottorino Respighi was an Italian composer, musicologist and conductor. One of his most famous works was his 'Roman Trilogy' which contains his 'Pini di Roma' - 'The Pines of Rome'. As you can guess from the title, the piece is based on the pine trees of Rome, and each of the four movements represents a different group of trees at a different time of the day. For instance, the first movement - Pines of the Villa Borghese - depicts the trees that are near a school - here, Respighi mimics the sound of children rushing and playing by using trills and runs in woodwind, as well as giving the movement a bright tone and mostly major tonality. In the second movement - Pines Near a Catacomb - the music suddenly becomes more subdued, as this movement was written to represent the catacombs in Rome. For this, Respighi completely changes the mood by arranging for the lower instruments of the orchestra, as well as using an organ for added effect. His use of parallel fifths was intended to represent the monks that would chant near the catacombs. 

The Janiculum Hill that looks over the city of Rome
The third movement - which is my personal favourite - is titled 'Pines of the Janiculum' - which references the Janiculum hill in Rome. Written as a nocturne, the music reflects the hill at night. The most striking aspect of this movement is definitely the fact that Respighi took inspiration from the sound of a nightingale singing in the pine trees. At the end of the movement, there is in fact a live recording (played on a gramaphone) of the bird singing. This was striking, as until then, use of live recordings with orchestral music had not been heard of. Until the entrance of the nightingale recording at the end of the movement, Respighi takes the listener through the entire orchestra as each of the instruments/sections depict the sound of the nightingale. This begins with a solo clarinet, then taken over by celli, then upper strings and so on until the development of the original theme reaches a climax which leaves us with a silence, only to be filled by the original solo voice of the clarinet again. Hearing this movement always makes me think of the typical golden age film music - as its impressionistic style really does paint a picture of the bird singing in the trees of the Janiculum.

The fourth movement 'The Pines of the Appian Way' represents the brilliance of the rising sun after the night. This is reflected in Respighi's use of ancient trumpets which are supposed to create a militaristic tone as if depicting the act of marching. Not only is this work an incredible example of detailed orchestration and innovative use of recording techniques - Respighi uses 'Pini di Roma' to take his audience through a whirlwind tour of some of the most beautiful areas of Rome - in only about twenty minutes!

No comments:

Post a Comment