Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pines of Rome (and Palms!)

When leaving the home of one of my students, his mother remarked to me: “Isn’t Rome a wonderful place? Where else can you see pines trees and palm trees together?”
This is a photo of pines and palms outside of my classroom window.

Ottorino Respighi wrote a symphonic work called “Pines of Rome” in 1924. Each movement portrays the location of pine trees in the city during different parts of the day. (It doesn’t seem that he paid any attention to the palm trees.)

The first movement portrays children playing in the pine groves of the Borghese gardens. The music depicts children marching and playing.

The second movement represents pine trees close to a catacomb. Lower orchestral instruments represent the subterranean feature of the catacombs. The three trombones chant like priests.

The third part, a nocturne, is set at night, near a temple of the Roman god Janus on the Janiculum hill. A nightingale is heard, giving Respighi the opportunity to include real life bird sounds in his work, a feat unachieved before. (I understand that the score mentions a specific recording that can be played on a phonograph.)

The final movement portrays pine trees along the great Appian Way at dawn. A Roman Legion advances along the Via Appia in the brilliance of the newly-risen sun with the sound of trumpets.

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