Differing from the avant-garde artists of his time, Ottorino Respighi was a composer who stayed faithful to Neoclassicism and is best known for his orchestral tone poems. Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome belong to the great symphonic repertoire of the 20th century.
Respighi was introduced to the piano and the violin by his father and he studied composition in his native city with Giuseppe Martucci and Luigi Torchi. Then nominated alti violinist in the orchestra of the Russian Imperial Theatre in Saint Petersburg, he also studied orchestration with Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and received lessons from Max Bruch for a short period of time. Working as a composition teacher in the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome from 1913 and after having published some melodies and lyrical essays, he turned to the renewing of Italian symphonies; with Fountains of Rome (1916), he achieved his first considerable success. It was followed by Pines of Rome (1924), the Trittico Botticelliano (1927) and Roman Festivals (1928). Ottorino Respighi performed all around the world as a conductor: he met Toscanini, Mengelberg, Horowitz, Gieseking, Wanda Landowska, even Ravel, Saint- Saëns, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Puccini, Busoni or Strauss.
The last period of his life was marked by a return to the stage; Respighi abandoned the symphonic language to focus on opera composing, giving it a philosophical dimension: Belfagor (1923), La Campana Sommersa (1927), Maria Egiziaca (1932) and La Fiamma (1934) were met with greater success in Germany and in the USA than in Italy.
5 landmark dates in the life of Ottorino Respighi:
1899: Studied with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
1901: Received a diploma from the Liceo Musicale of Bologna
1913: Was appointed professor at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia, Rome
1919: Respighi married the composer and singer Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo, who had been his composition student; she later completed some of his works
1919: Travelled with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes
6 key works by Ottorino Respighi:
1921 Concerto Gregoriano
1924 Pines of Rome
1924 Quartetto Dorico
1928 Roman Festivals
1934 La Fiamma, opera