Respighi: Six Pieces for Solo Piano (Scherbakov)

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve not paid much attention to the work of Ottorino Respighi. Oh, I know he wrote “The Pines of Rome,” and “The Fountains of Rome,” and “Festivals of Rome.” For godssake, I even lived in Rome and have seen the pines, some festivals and hundreds of fountains. But if you asked me to hum something from one of these piece, I’d be hard-pressed.
Not that I haven’t heard them like, a thousand times, since they used to get played again and again on the local classical radio channels, especially on the call-in request shows.

If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? If Respighi plays in the background, did I actually hear it? He was 17 years younger than Debussy, and I tend to pigeon-hole him either in the Impressionist school, or maybe as an anachronism like Rachmaninoff–poised between Romantic and Cubist or Atonal music.

He was first noted for his violin and viola virtuosity, playing in string quartets as as principle violist in St. Petersburg, with the Russian Imperial Theatre. While in Russia he studied with Rimsky-Korsakov, and later, living in Germany, reportedly studied with Max Bruch.

Returning to Rome, he taught composition at the St. Cecilia Conservatory, where he managed to weather the Mussolini years trying to remain a-political though he did promote his music for nationalistic purposes. At the same time, he championed more vocal critics of fascism like Aurturo Toscanini.

Today, I’m posting something I stumbled upon while surfing youtube. It’s six pieces for solo piano. From Wikipedia, I see that he wrote operas, ballets, symphonic works, quite a few chamber pieces. His list of works does not include any works for piano, so maybe I should update the Wikipedia entry. Do any of you know anything about his piano works that you can steer me to?

Here’s a piano sonata I just found.

About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

9 Responses to Respighi: Six Pieces for Solo Piano (Scherbakov)

  1. richibi says:

    I didn’t think Respighi had it in him, Kurt, his music for me to date has been aimless, unimpressive, maybe you can let me in on him – Richard

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kvennarad says:

    Well I don’t think I could hum one of his tunes either, but I enjoyed these piano pieces.

    Isn’t ‘Festivals of Rome’ the one where there’s a sudden, loud trumpet call from the back of the auditorium?


  3. kurtnemes says:

    Good question. Does it go, bum-bum, bum, buuuuum?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. G.H.Bone says:

    Tee hee. Poor old Respighi. I’ve had the same problem with Respighi. He clearly knew what he was doing, and the sheer verve and opulence of his orchestral music always impresses, but does his music really STAY with the listener?

    These piano pieces are a delight, though (thank you Kurt). And I’d also make the case for his three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances. This Bergamasca from Suite 2 is most beguiling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kurtnemes says:

      Wow. The Bergamasca knocked me for a loop! You know Respighi was something of a musical scholar, too and did a lot of work on Monteverdi. In this piece I hear quotes of his Vespers for the Virgin Mary and Laetatus Sum. At the same time, it sounds a hell of a lot like Copland’s “American” works. He was in Paris in the 20s with the Lost Generation, studied with Boulanger, who was encyclopedic in her knowledge of music. So I’m thinking that Respighi is doing something more syncretic and had more of an influence than I thought before.


      • G.H.Bone says:

        Oh, I’m glad you like it. I think it’s a delight. As to the musical precursors, I have to admit ignorance – that is the extent to which it draws on melodies of the past, or uses original melodies in pastiche vein. Monteverdi wouldn’t have occurred to me, so I’m intrigued that you spotted him in there.

        I’m delighted too that you mention Copland. I had certainly heard a lot of Coplandesque passages. Though probably we should say that Copland contains Respighian passages!


      • kurtnemes says:

        Here’s the Monteverdi. You’re right about Copland being Respighi-esque. I feel bad for dissing him now.


  5. Funny. I’m writing about the Roman triptych next month… They are, for better or worse, likely his most famous compositions. Last year I heard his Gli Uccelli performed here. It was at least interesting, but did not blow me away.

    Liked by 1 person

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