108. Ottorino Respighi [365 Composers for 2013]


18th April – Ottorino Respighi

Respighi (9th July 1879 – 18th April 1936) is our composer for 18th April, to mark the day of his death.
Nationality: Italian
Lifespan: 56 years
Genre: Romantic/Neoclassical
Education: Liceo Musicale, Bologna
Fame Ranking: 3

Ottorino Respighi was born in Bologna, Italy and began his musical training there at the Liceo Musicale (Music School). His father had taught him piano and violin from an early age, and at the music school Respighi complemented his skills with studies in viola, composition and historical studies. He continued to be immensely interested in the historical aspect of music throughout his life, and composed several “neo-classical” pieces which were based on much older musical forms and harmonies. (Despite the term “neo-classical” being applied to Respighi, there is nothing strictly “classical” about his style. He tended to blend historical forms with Romantic.)

As a young man, Respighi travelled to St. Petersburg in Russia and took up the position of principal viola player at the Russian Imperial Theatre Orchestra. He did not focus on composition at this period in his life. Russia was followed by a short stint in Germany, and it was only when he returned to Italy in 1909 that he turned his attentions to becoming a full-time composer.

Respighi’s compositions fall into two main camps – there are pieces which translate a visual stimulus into music – a geographical or culture canvas is portrayed musically, and there are his musicologically inspired neo-classical works, which transform pieces from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries using modern orchestration techniques. His culturally-inspired pieces are among his most famous, with a suite a works depiciting aspects of Rome being particularly well-known. He also wrote a trilogy of pieces inspired by Brazilian life. Historical works include “Ancient Airs and Dances”, and he also published his own editions of works by Monteverdi and Vivaldi.

Here is Respighi’s first suite of “Ancient Airs and Dances”:


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