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In the Studio: JoAnn Falletta, BPO and Respighi’s Rome trilogy

June 27, 2018

by JoAnn Falletta

Ottorino Respighi

Ah, the eternal city! Has anyone not fallen in love with Rome? Certainly no one has written a more beautiful love letter to this timeless city than Ottorino Respighi. The composer gifted his beloved adopted city with three cinematic portraits that capture the beauty and mystery—both past and present—of this endlessly fascinating Italian capital.

When Klaus Heymann asked us to record Respighi’s Fountains, Pines and Festivals, it was a dream assignment for the Buffalo Philharmonic. Requiring both massive power and the delicacy of an impressionistic master, the works are virtuoso showpieces for orchestra that reveal the composer’s astonishing gift for orchestration.

The BPO planned a two-week Italian festival to showcase the three Respighi pieces, and surrounded them with works by Pizzetti, Verdi and two “non-Italians” who were linked to Italian themes—Berlioz (and his Harold in Italy) and Rachmaninov (with his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini). Wonderful music all, but the surround sound splendour of Respighi’s breathtaking tone paintings stole the show. Both Pines and Festivals require brass players stationed in the balcony, either as centurions calling the public to the gory executions in the Circus Maximus, or the army of Rome marching home on the Appian Way. The acoustics of Kleinhans Music Hall were perfect for this sonic drama, enveloping the audience in a wash of sound that was amazing. For the “ghostly chant” of the catacombs, principal trumpeter Alex Jokipii played from deep under the stage in the bowels of Kleinhans, his sound eerily floating into the hall as a dreamy remembrance of the Rome of two millennia ago. The beautiful nightingale (actually taped by Respighi himself) chirped from the sound system of the hall, filling the space with a twinkling twilight magic. Neptune and his court sailed regally over glistening waves, as the BPO horn section pealed the calls of the tritons on their seashell trumpets. Postcards of Rome abounded—from the Piazza Navona to the Trevi Fountain to the moonlit vineyards of the Roman countryside.

In this wonderful music, Respighi sought to remind Italians of the first quarter of the 20th century of the glory that had been Rome—a city unequalled in its innovation, creativity and accomplishments. His music brought his country back to international prominence in the orchestral world, and established an environment of national pride and hope in the future.

It is said that Per Roma, non basta una vita (for Rome, one lifetime is not enough). In his music, Respighi created a fascinating landscape of extraordinary imagination that seduces and enchants the listener again and again, drawing all of us into a world of astonishing colour, brilliance, melancholy, nostalgia and unforgettable beauty.

The recording will be released in 2019.

Photos of the recording session. Click on thumbnails to enlarge:

Buffalo Philharmonic Background and Discography

JoAnn Falletta Biography and Discography

Ottorino Respighi Biography and Discography


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