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Roman Festival : Work information

Ottorino Respighi ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, Fernando Lozano (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Roman Festival
Work number
1928-00-00 02:00:00

This recording

Ivan Pastor
Xavier Villalpando
Recording date
1982-01-01 00:00:00

The Composers

Ottorino Respighi

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.

Track listing

  • October festivity 0:00 min


The last part of Respighi's trilogy of Roman tone poems, Feste Romana or Roman Festival recalls the traditions of Rome throughout the ages. Often accused of child-like sensory overload in his works, Respighi creates a wonderfully exhilarating ride full of vivid orchestral colour. The orchestra employed for Feste is typically massive with organ, bells, mandolin and a battery of percussion among others.

The first section takes us back with martial fanfare to Imperial Rome and the cruel games of the Circus Maximus. We then move to Christian Rome of the Middle Ages for The Jubilee, and a processional chorale. The third section, October Festivity, makes particular use of popular songs, listen especially for the Mandolin intermezzo. The work is concluded by the celebratory exuberance of La Befana or Epiphany, traditionally observed on January 6th. 

Roman Festival was composed in 1928 and was first performed under Toscanini in February 1929 at Carnegie Hall in New York. Thanks largely to Toscanini's efforts to popularise Respighi's music, Roman Festival has been assured a permanent and popular place in the repertory.