Respighi, Ottorino , eminent Italian composer and teacher; b. Bologna, July 9, 1879; d. Rome, April 18, 1936. He studied violin with F. Sarti and composition with L. Torchi and G. Martucci at Bologna’s Liceo Musicale (1891–1900). In 1900 he went to Russia, and played 1st viola in the orch. of the Imperial Opera in St. Petersburg; there he took lessons with Rimsky-Korsakov, which proved a decisive influence in Re-spighi’s coloristic orchestration. From 1903 to 1908 he was active as a concert violinist; also played the viola in the Mugellini Quartet of Bologna. In 1913 he was engaged as a prof. of composition at Rome’s Liceo (later Conservatorio) di Santa Cecilia; in 1924, was appointed its director, but resigned in 1926, retaining only a class in advanced composition; subsequently devoted himself to composing and conducting. He was elected a member of the Italian Royal Academy on March 23, 1932. In 1925–26 and again in 1932 he made tours of the U.S. as a pianist and a conductor. Respighi’s style of composition is a highly successful blend of songful melodies with full and rich harmonies; he was one of the best masters of modern Italian music in orchestration. His power of evocation of the Italian scene and his ability to sustain interest without prolixity is incontestable. Although he wrote several operas, he achieved his greatest success with 2 symphonic poems, Le fontane di Roma and I pini di Roma, each consisting of 4 tone paintings of the Roman landscape; a great innovation for the time was the insertion of a phonograph recording of a nightingale into the score of I pini di Roma. His wife, Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo Respighi (b. Rome, March 24, 1894), was his pupil; she wrote a fairy opera, Fior di neve; the symphonic poem Serenata di maschere; and numerous songs; was also a concert singer. She publ. a biography of her husband.
DRAMATIC: Opera: Re Enzo (Bologna, March 12, 1905); Semirama, lyric tragedy (Bologna, Nov. 20, 1910); Marie-Victoire (1913–14; not perf.); La bella dormente nel bosco or La bella addormentata nel bosco, musical fairy tale (1916–21; Rome, April 13, 1922); Belfagor, lyric comedy (1921–22; Milan, April 26, 1923); La campana sommersa, after Hauptmann’s Die versunkene Glocke (1923–27; Hamburg, Nov. 18, 1927); Maria Egiziaca, mystery play (1929–32; N.Y., March 16, 1932); La fiamma (1930–33; Rome, Jan. 23, 1934); a free transcription of Monteverdi’s Orfeo (Milan, March 16, 1935); Lucrezia (1935; Milan, Feb. 24, 1937). Ba11et : La Boutique fantasque, on themes by Rossini (London, June 5, 1919); Scherzo veneziano (Rome, Nov. 27, 1920); Belkis, Regina di Saba (1930–31; Milan, Jan. 23, 1932). ORCH.: Piano Concerto (1902); Suite for Organ and Strings (1902–05); Notturno (1905); Sinfonia drammatica (1913–14); Le fontane di Roma, symphonic poem (1914–16; Rome, March 11, 1917); Antiche arie e danze per liuto, 3 sets, the 3rd for Strings (1916, 1923, 1931); Ballata delle gnomidi (1918–20; Rome, April 11, 1920); Poema autunnale for Violin and Orch. (1920–25); Concerto gregoriano for Violin and Orch. (1921; Rome, Feb. 5, 1922); I pini di Roma, symphonic poem (Rome, Dec. 14, 1924); Concerto in modo misolidio for Piano and Orch. (N.Y., Dec. 31, 1925, composer soloist); Rossiniana, suite from Rossini’s piano pieces (1925); Vetrate di chiesa, symphonic impressions (Boston, Feb. 25, 1927); Impressioni brasiliane, symphonic suite (1927; São Paulo, June 16, 1928, composer conducting); Trittico Botticelliano for Chamber Orch. (1927); Gli Uccelli, suite for Small Orch. on themes by Rameau, B. Pasquini, and others (1927); Toccata for Piano and Orch. (1928); Feste romane, symphonic poem (1928; N.Y., Feb. 21, 1929); Metamorphosen modi XII (Boston, Nov. 7, 1930); Concerto à 5 for Violin, Oboe, Trumpet, Double Bass, Piano, and Strings (1932). Band : Huntingtower Ballad (Washington, D.C., April 17, 1932). CHAMBER : 11 pieces for Violin and Piano (1904–07); String Quartet in D major (1907); Quartetto dorico for String Quartet (1924); Violin Sonata (1917). VOCAL : Il tramonto for Mezzo-soprano and String Quartet, after Shelley (1917); La Primavera, cantata for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1918–19; Rome, March 4, 1923); Lauda per la Natività del Signore for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1928–30); 45 songs; 3 vocalises; arrangements.
R. de Rensis, O. R. (Turin, 1935); E. Respighi, O. R.: Dati biografici ordinati (Milan, 1954; abr. Eng. tr., 1962); O. R.: Catalogo delle opere (Milan, 1965); E. Battaglia, ed., O. R. (Turin, 1985); D. Bryant, ed., Il Novecento musicale italiano: Tra neoclassicismo e neogoticismo: Atti del convegno di studi promosso dalla Fondazione Giorgio Cini per il 50 anniversario della scomparsa di O. R. (Florence, 1988).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
The rather conservative eclecticism of the music of the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) made it immediately popular. His skill in writing for orchestra was unsurpassed.
The father of Ottorino Respighi was a professional musician and teacher at Bologna's Liceo Musicale, where Ottorino received his first musical training. He was a gifted violinist, and it was not until after his graduation from the conservatory that he definitely decided to be a composer rather than a violin virtuoso. Realizing that he needed a broader musical background than that supplied at home, he went to St. Petersburg to study with Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and later to Berlin to study with Max Bruch, a rather conservative German composer.
After his return to Italy, Respighi was appointed professor of composition at the prestigious Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome, and in 1923 he became its director. Tours of Europe and the United States in 1925, 1928, and 1932, in which he conducted his compositions with leading orchestras, spread his fame.
Respighi is chiefly remembered as the composer of two tone poems, the Fountains of Rome (1916-1917) and the Pines of Rome (1924), brilliantly orchestrated evocations of the Eternal City. In a preface to the score of the former the composer wrote, "In this symphonic poem the composer has endeavored to give expression to the sentiments and visions suggested to him by four of Rome's fountains, contemplated at the hour in which their character is most in harmony with the surrounding landscape, or in which their beauty appears most impressive to the observer." The Pines also has four sections, depicting the Villa Borghese, a catacomb, the Janiculum, and the Appian Way. These are very effective programs because they allowed the composer to write music of contrasting moods and varying associations, both pictorial and historical.
These compositions show Respighi's complete mastery of modern orchestration. His use of solo woodwinds and brass reveals what he learned from Rimsky-Korsakov, but it is also apparent that he knew the scores of Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, and Richard Strauss as well. In the third section of the Pines, Respighi introduces a recording of an actual nightingale's song into the score.
Other compositions of Respighi are the operas The Sunken Bell, produced at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1928, Maria Egiziaca (1932), and La Fiamma (1934); a ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev, La Boutique fantasque (1919), written on themes by Gioacchino Rossini; and a Concerto Gregoriano (1922) for violin and orchestra, based on Gregorian chant.
There is no biography of Respighi in English, but his wife, Elsa Respighi, wrote a memoir, Ottorino Respighi (trans. 1962). He is discussed in Paul Collaer, A History of Modern Music (1955; trans. 1961), and David Ewen, The World of Twentieth-century Music (1968).
Alvera, Pierluigi., Respighi, New York, N.Y.: Treves Pub. Co., 1986.
Ottorino Respighi, Torino: ERI, 1985.
Respighi, Elsa, Fifty years of a life in music, 1905-1955, Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1993. □
20th-century composer famed for his orchestral colorism; b. Bologna, July 9, 1879; d. Rome, April 18, 1936. Following musical studies at the Liceo Musicale of Bologna (1891–99), he was active until 1908 as violinist, but continued to study composition, first under Rimsky-Korsakov in St. Petersburg (now Leningrad), then under Max Bruch in Berlin. From 1913 on he taught composition at the conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome, for two years as its director. In 1932 he was elected to the Italian Royal Academy. Eclectic in his approach, he was associated for a time with the movement around Casella and Malipiero to revive Italian neoclassic instrumental music, and he produced a number of transcriptions of 17th- and 18th-century works. In his most successful style, notably in the symphonic poems The Fountains of Rome (1917) and The Pines of Rome (1924), he used a more conservative harmonic language and the sumptuous orchestration identified with Richard Strauss. At the same time his interest in Gregorian chant (encouraged by his wife and former pupil, the composer Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo), emerges in the modal melodies of many works from c. 1920. The opera Lucrezia (1935) and Concerto a cinque (1934) tend toward linear structure and reduced performing media, thus approaching the progressive features of style prevailing among his contemporaries. Among his operas, Maria Egiziaca (1931), first produced at Carnegie Hall, New York City, is probably the best known.
Bibliography: e. respighi, Ottorino Respighi, tr. g. morris (London 1962). r. de rensis, Ottorino Respighi (Turin 1933). p. alverÀ, Portraits of Greatness: Respighi (New York 1986). l. bragaglia and e. respighi. Il Teatro di Respighi: Opere, Balli e Balletti (Rome 1978). a. cantÙ, Respighi Compositore (Torino 1985). d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996). n. slonimsky, ed. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (8th ed. New York 1992). j. c. g. waterhouse The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ed. s. sadie (New York 1980).