Ottorino Respighi (Italian: [ottoˈriːno resˈpiːɡi]; 9 July 1879 – 18 April 1936) was an Italian violinist, composer and musicologist, best known for his three orchestral tone poems Fountains of Rome (1916), Pines of Rome (1924), and Roman Festivals (1928). His musicological interest in 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century music led him to compose pieces based on the music of these periods. He also wrote several operas, the most famous being La fiamma.
Respighi was born in Bologna, Italy into a musical family. His father, a local piano teacher, taught him to play the piano and violin at an early age. He went on to study the 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. Respighi passed his exams and received a diploma in the violin in 1899.
In 1900, Respighi accepted the role of principal violist in the orchestra of the Russian Imperial Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia, during its season of Italian opera. During his time there, he studied composition for five months with Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Respighi returned to Bologna to continue his studies in composition, which earned him a second diploma. Until 1908, his principal activity was first violinist in the Mugellini Quintet, a touring quintet founded by composer Bruno Mugellini. Following his departure from the group, Respighi moved to Rome. He then spent some time performing in Germany before returning to Italy and turning his attention primarily to composition. Although many sources indicate some brief studies with Max Bruch during his time in Germany, Respighi's wife later asserted this was not the case.
During the early twentieth century, Respighi was active as a performer and composer. His compositions began to draw attention and, in 1913, he was appointed as professor of composition at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome, holding the post for the rest of his life. In 1917, his international fame rose following multiple performances of the first of his orchestral tone poems, Fountains of Rome. In 1919, he married a former pupil, singer Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo.
From 1923 to 1926, Respighi was the director of the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia. In 1925, he collaborated with Sebastiano Arturo Luciani on an elementary textbook entitled Orpheus. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Italy in 1932.
A visit to Brazil resulted in the composition Impressioni brasiliane (Brazilian Impressions). He had intended to write a sequence of five pieces, but by 1928 he had completed only three, and decided to present what he had. Its first performance was in 1928 in Rio de Janeiro. The first piece, "Tropical Night", is a nocturne with fragments of dance rhythms suggested by the sensuous textures. The second piece is a sinister picture of a snake research institute, Instituto Butantan, that Respighi visited in São Paulo, with hints of birdsong (as in Pines of Rome). The final movement is a vigorous and colorful Brazilian dance.
On the ship back home from Brazil, Respighi met by chance with Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. During their long conversation, Fermi tried to get Respighi to explain music in terms of physics, which Respighi was unable to do. They remained close friends until Respighi's death in 1936.
Apolitical in nature, Respighi attempted to steer a neutral course once Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922. His established international fame allowed him some level of freedom but at the same time encouraged the regime to exploit his music for political purposes. Respighi vouched for more outspoken critics such as Arturo Toscanini, allowing them to continue to work under the regime.
Feste romane, the third of his Roman tone poems, 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. 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.
Respighi was an enthusiastic scholar of Italian music of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. He published editions of the music of Claudio Monteverdi and Antonio Vivaldi, and of Benedetto Marcello's Didone. His work in this area influenced his later compositions and led to a number of works based on early music, notably his three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances and the Suite Gli uccelli (The Birds). In his Neoclassical works, Respighi generally kept clear of the musical idiom of the classical period, preferring to combine pre-classical melodic styles and musical forms (like dance suites) with typical late-19th-century romantic harmonies and textures.
He continued to compose and tour until January 1936, after which he became increasingly ill. He died of endocarditis on 18 April that year, at the age of 56. A year after his burial, his remains were moved to his birthplace, Bologna, and reinterred at the city's expense at the Certosa di Bologna. Inscribed on his tomb is only his name; dates of birth and death are missing.
Re Enzo (1905)
Marie Victoire (completed in 1913, but not produced until 2004)
La bella dormente nel bosco (1922)
La campana sommersa (1927)
Maria egiziaca (1932)
La fiamma (1934)
Lucrezia (1937) opera in 1 act (completed posthumously by his wife, Elsa, and his pupil Ennio Porrino)
La Boutique fantasque (1918), borrows tunes from the 19th-century Italian composer Rossini. Premiered in London on 5 June 1919.
Sèvres de la vieille France (1920), transcription of 17th- to 18th-century French music
La Pentola magica (1920), based on popular Russian themes
Scherzo Veneziano (Le astuzie di Columbina) (1920)
Belkis, Regina di Saba (1931)
Preludio, corale e fuga (1901)
Aria per archi (1901)
Leggenda for Violin and Orchestra P 36 (1902)
Piano Concerto in A minor (1902)
Suite per archi (1902)
Humoreske for Violin and Orchestra P 45 (1903)
Concerto in la maggiore, for Violin and Orchestra (1903), completed by Salvatore Di Vittorio (2009)
Fantasia Slava (1903)
Suite in E major (Sinfonia) (1903)
Serenata per piccola orchestra (1904)
Suite in Sol Maggiore (1905), for organ and strings
Ouverture Burlesca (1906)
Concerto all'antica for Violin and Orchestra (1908)
Ouverture Carnevalesca (1913)
Tre Liriche (1913), for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (Notte, Nebbie, Pioggia)
Sinfonia Drammatica (1914)
Fountains of Rome (1916)
Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 1 (1917), based on Renaissance lute pieces by Simone Molinaro, Vincenzo Galilei (father of Galileo Galilei), and additional anonymous composers.
Ballata delle Gnomidi (Dance of the Gnomes) (1920), based on a poem by Claudio Clausetti
Adagio con variazioni (1921), for Cello and Orchestra
Concerto Gregoriano for Violin and Orchestra (1921)
Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 2 (1923), based on pieces for lute, archlute, and viol by Fabritio Caroso, Jean-Baptiste Besard, Bernardo Gianoncelli, and an anonymous composer. It also interpolates an aria attributed to Marin Mersenne.
Pines of Rome (1924)
Concerto in modo misolidio (Concerto in the Mixolydian mode) (1925)
Poema autunnale (Autumn Poem), for Violin and Orchestra (1925)
Rossiniana (1925), free transcriptions from Rossini's Quelques riens (from Péchés de vieillesse)
Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows) (1926), four movements of which three are based on Tre Preludi sopra melodie gregoriane for piano (1919)
Trittico Botticelliano (1927), three movements inspired by Botticelli paintings in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence: La Primavera, L'Adorazione dei Magi, La nascita di Venere; the middle movement uses the well-known tune Veni Emmanuel (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)
Impressioni brasiliane (Brazilian Impressions) (1928)
The Birds (1928), based on Baroque pieces imitating birds. It comprises Introduzione (Bernardo Pasquini), La Colomba (Jacques de Callot), La Gallina (Jean-Philippe Rameau), L'Usignolo (anonymous English composer of the seventeenth century) and Il Cucu (Pasquini)
Toccata for Piano and Orchestra (1928)
Roman Festivals (1928)
Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 3 (1932), arranged for strings only and somewhat melancholy in overall mood. It is based on lute songs by Besard, a piece for baroque guitar by Ludovico Roncalli, lute pieces by Santino Garsi da Parma and additional anonymous composers.
Concerto a cinque (Concerto for Five) (1933), for oboe, trumpet, violin, double bass, piano and strings
Nebbie (1906), voice and piano
Stornellatrice (1906), voice and piano
Cinque canti all'antica (1906), voice and piano
Il Lamento di Arianna (1908), for mezzo-soprano and orchestra
Aretusa (text by Shelley) (1911), cantata for mezzo-soprano and orchestra
Tre Liriche (1913), for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (Notte, Nebbie, Pioggia)
La Sensitiva (The Sensitive Plant, text by Shelley) (1914), for mezzo-soprano and orchestra
Il Tramonto (The sunset, text by Shelley) (1914), for mezzo-soprano and string quartet (or string orchestra)
Cinque liriche (1917), voice and piano
Quattro liriche (Gabriele D'Annunzio) (1920), voice and piano
La Primavera (The Spring, texts by Constant Zarian) (1922) lyric poem for soli, chorus and orchestra
Deità silvane (Woodland Deities, texts by Antonio Rubino) (1925), song-cycle for soprano and small orchestra
Lauda per la Natività del Signore (Laud to the Nativity, text attributed to Jacopone da Todi) (1930), a cantata for three soloists (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor), mixed chorus (including substantial sections for 8-part mixed and TTBB male chorus), and chamber ensemble (woodwinds and piano 4-hands)
String Quartet in D major in one movement (undated)
String Quartet No. 1 in D major (1892–98)
String Quartet No. 2 in B-flat major (1898)
String Quartet in D major (1907)
String Quartet in D minor (1909) subtitled by composer "Ernst ist das Leben, heiter ist die Kunst"
Quartetto Dorico or Doric String Quartet (1924)
Tre Preludi sopra melodie gregoriane, for piano (1921)
Violin Sonata in D minor (1897)
Violin Sonata in B minor (1917)
Piano Sonata in F minor
Variazioni, for guitar
Double Quartet in D minor (1901)
Piano Quintet in F minor (1902)
Six Pieces for Violin and Piano (1901–06)
Quartet in D major for 4 Viols (1906)
Huntingtower: Ballad for Band (1932)
String Quintet for 2 Violins, 1 Viola & 2 Violoncellos in G minor (1901, incomplete)
Notturno for piano (1904) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk1WtIjF9Jw)
Respighi, Elsa (1955) Fifty Years of a Life in Music
Respighi, Elsa (1962) Ottorino Respighi, London: Ricordi
Nupen, Christopher (director) (1983) Ottorino Respighi: A Dream of Italy, Allegro Films
Barrow, Lee G (2004) Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936): An Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press
Viagrande, Riccardo, La generazione dell'Ottanta, Casa Musicale Eco, Monza, 2007
Daniele Gambaro, Ottorino Respighi. Un'idea di modernità nel Novecento, pp. XII+246, illustrato con esempi musicali, novembre 2011, Zecchini Editore, ISBN 978-88-6540-017-3
Amici di Respighi (Italian)
Fondo Ottorino Respighi (Italian)
Chamber Orchestra of New York "Ottorino Respighi"
Ottorino Respighi String Quartet in D Major (1907) Sound-bites and discussion
Free scores by Respighi at the International Music Score Library Project
Ottorino Respighi at Find a Grave