At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Ottorino Respighi – violinist and composer

Talented Bolognese brought a Russian flavour to Italian music


Ottorino Respighi brought a Russian flavour to 20th century Italian music
Ottorino Respighi brought a Russian flavour
to 20th century Italian music
The musician Ottorino Respighi was born on this day in 1879 in an apartment inside Palazzo Fantuzzi in the centre of Bologna.

As a composer, Respighi is remembered for bringing Russian orchestral colour and some of Richard Strauss’s harmonic techniques into Italian music.

He is perhaps best known for his three orchestral tone poems Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals, but he also wrote several operas.

Respighi was born into a musical family and learnt to play the piano and violin at an early age.

He studied the violin and viola with Federico Sarti at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna and then went to St Petersburg to be the principal violinist in the orchestra of the Imperial Theatre. While he was there he studied with Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and acquired an interest in orchestral composition.

One of Respighi’s piano concertos was performed at Bologna in 1902 and an orchestral piece by him was played at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York the same year.

Respighi played one of his own piano concertos in New York in 1925
Respighi played one of his own piano
concertos in New York in 1925
His operas brought him more recognition and in 1913 he was appointed as professor of composition at the prestigious St Cecilia Academy in Rome, a post he held for the rest of his life.

Respighi’s Roman compositions, written between 1916 and 1928, sought to reflect the sensual, decadent climate of the city depicted by Gabriele D’Annunzio in his poetry.

The composer was also interested in 16th and 17th century Italian music, which he transcribed for orchestra from compositions written for old instruments, such as the lute.

In 1919 Respighi married one of his pupils, Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo, who was a singer and composer.

He performed in New York for the first time in 1925, playing one of his own piano concertos at Carnegie Hall.

Respighi continued to go on tour and to compose music until his health deteriorated in 1936. He died that year at the age of 56 in Rome. A year after his death his remains were moved to his birthplace, Bologna and reinterred at the city’s expense at the Certosa di Bologna.

The Palazzo Fantuzzi in Bologna, where Respighi was born
The Palazzo Fantuzzi in Bologna, where Respighi was born
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Fantuzzi, where Resphigi was born, is a Renaissance-style palace in Via San Vitale, close to the Church of Santi Vitale e Agricola. It is also known as Palazzo degli Elefanti because of the sculpted, elephant decorations on the façade. The Palace was designed in 1517 by Andrea da Formigine. Part of the palace is now used for art exhibitions.

Before the move to the Parco della Musica,  the Academy was in Campo Marzio
Before the move to the Parco della Musica,
the Academy was in Campo Marzio
Travel tip:

The St Cecilia Academy - Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia - where Respighi taught and also met his wife, is one of the oldest musical academies in the world. It was founded in Rome by Pope Sixtus V in 1585 at the Church of Santa Maria ad Martires, better known as the Pantheon. Over the centuries, many famous composers and musicians have been members of the Academy, which lists opera singers Beniamino Gigli and Cecilia Bartoli among its alumni. Since 2005 the Academy’s headquarters have been at the Parco della Musica in Rome, which was designed by the architect Renzo Piano.

More reading:

The powerful voice of mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli

The poetry and politics of Gabriele D'Annunzio

Anselmo Colzani, Italian star of the New York Met

Also on this day:

1950: The birth of tennis star Adriano Panatta 

2006: Italy win their fourth World Cup by beating France

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