Church Windows

I confess a weakness for tone poems over symphonies. My introduction to Ottorino Respighi was hearing The Pines of Rome performed at the Eastman School in the Fall of 1978. I actually heard it live twice that year.

When I worked in public radio about a decade later, I discovered this album on vinyl. It was pressed to cd in the 90’s and I snapped it up somewhere. Brazilian Impressions used to be my favorite piece, but over the past month, I’ve come to love Church Windows. The last movement, San Gregorio Magno, gets a lot of attention for the massive organ in the finale, but I like the subtlety of the first movement, La Fuga in Egitto. When the swirling strings and the bold brass of the second movement follow it, my wife always jumps at the surprise contrast.

I find Respighi’s orchestrations to be masterful. Among my favorites, I would place him in my top three, along with Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. Other composers of the day were considered more on the genius end of things for pushing the musical envelope. I like Respighi’s roots in modal music and tradition. Does that sound strange coming from me? Did you know his wife’s studies in plainsong influenced him in themes he chose for his orchestral pieces?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Church Windows

  1. Randolph Nichols says:

    I,too, am a Respighi enthusiast. There was a time, mainly because of accusations of his being mere a “film” composer or having supposed fascist ties, one had to temper a Respighi advocacy.

    One caution, though, to your post. A glimpse of his complete works shows that he composed much more than tone poems. He also had a command of traditional abstract forms. His command of orchestration would suggest such a solid grounding.

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