Ottorino Respighi

Italian Born 09 Jul 1879 Died 18 Apr 1936

Ottorino Respighi was born in Bologna and would eventually become Italy's most important postromantic composer. Trained first in his home town's Liceo Musicale, he acquired sufficient viola skills to gain sporadic employment as an orchestral player in Russia.  There he receieved lessons Rimsky-Korsakov , which were influential but few.  Less helpful were the studies in 1902 with Max Bruch in Berlin.

Returning to Bologna he was a professional violinist (1903- 08), gaining local recognition as a composer.  A return to Berlin saw him compose his first opera, Semiráma (1908), which although a success when performed in 1910 was soon forgotten.  After a few years as a pianist (mostly accompanying singers, he taught composition (1913-25) at Rome's Santa Cecilia Academy.  It was during this time that he wrote the first of his three most enduring works; The Fountains of Rome (1917), The Pines of Rome (1924), and Roman Festivals (1929) are exuberant tone-poems which are still frequently performed.  Also still popular are his sets of Ancient Airs and Dances (1917, 1924, 1932), a testament to his love of the early music he unearthed and edited.

Respighi's success allowed him to travel to the New World, where he conducted and accompanied his wife, a singer of his works.  As he aged his abilities began to wane; he began no new works after 1933 and his final unfinished opera, Lucrezia, is arguably not his finest hour. 

Respighi's status as composer of choice of Mussolini is perhaps not a reflection of the composer's own beliefs.  His scant correspondence with the fascist politicians of the time reveals little in the way of support for any political agenda, and his attacks on modernism, although reminiscent of the contemporary Nazi diktats, are nothing one would not expect such a composer to make in peacetime.  In any event, on this subject he was in opposition to Mussolini.

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