My first exposure to the music of Ottorino Respighi was my junior year in college. Some friends were discussing an upcoming Eastman School of Music concert where Pines of Rome was on the program. Unfamiliar composer to me. My dad was most a big-B man–that’s big band, plus Bach/Beethoven/you know … the usual suspects. The most modern I knew was Dvorak.
The recorded bird call in the piece–that was an intriguing point of discussion at the dining hall one night. So I went to the concert, and when the Eastman Philharmonia repeated the Respighi a month later for some special event, I went then too. I got a third live listen almost fourteen years ago. (!) I know I’ve blogged about this a few times.
Anyway, this bit isn’t about pines. I was listening to Ancient Airs and Dances here to calm myself down today. Underrated and lovely pieces adapted, as I hear, from lute songs of earlier centuries. Usually one of these three suites are tucked away as filler on classical cds with more of the big works. Too bad because each of them each stand out for me. Respighi was a master orchestrator. If I were to name my four favorites of all time, it would be him, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, and Ellington. Masters of many instruments all.