Roman Festivals (Respighi)
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Roman Festivals (Italian: Feste Romane) is a symphonic poem written by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. It is the third orchestral work in his "Roman trilogy", preceded by Fountains of Rome (1916) and Pines of Rome (1924). Each of the four movements depict a scene of celebration from ancient or modern Rome. It is the longest and most demanding of the trilogy, and thus it is less-often programmed than its companion pieces. Its premiere was performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Arturo Toscanini in 1929.
The first movement, Circuses (Circenses), depicts the ancient contest in which gladiators battled to the death, with the sound of trumpet fanfares. Strings and woodwinds suggest the plainchant of the first Christian martyrs which are heard against the snarls of the beasts against which they are pitted. The movement ends with violent orchestral chords, complete with organ pedal, as the martyrs succumb.
Next, the Jubilee (Giubileo), portrays the every-fiftieth-year festival in the Papal tradition (see Christian Jubilee). Pilgrims approaching Rome catch a breath-taking view from Mt. Mario, as church bells ring in the background.
The third movement, Harvest of October (L’Ottobrata), represents the harvest and hunt in Rome. The French horn solo celebrates the harvest as bells portray love serenades.
The final movement, Epiphany (La Befana), takes place in the Piazza Navona. Trumpets sound again and create a different clamour of Roman songs and dances, including a drunken reveler depicted by a solo tenor trombone.
- Woodwinds: 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets in B-flat and A, piccolo clarinet in D, bass clarinet in B-flat and A, 2 bassoons, and contrabassoon
- Brass: 4 horns in F, 4 trumpets in B-flat and A, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba and 3 Soprano buccine in B-flat1
- Percussion: timpani, bells, glockenspiel, cymbals, bass drum with cymbals, field drum, snare drum, horse hooves, ratchet, sleigh bells, tambourine, tam-tam, triangle, high and low wood blocks, and xylophone
- Keyboard: piano (2 and 4 hands), and organ
- Strings: mandolin, 1st and 2nd violins, violas, violoncellos, and double basses
Arturo Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra premiered the music in Carnegie Hall in 1929. Toscanini recorded it with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the Academy of Music in 1942 for RCA Victor. He recorded it again with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in 1949, again for RCA. Both recordings were issued on LP and CD. Indeed, the 1949 performance pushed the very limits of the recording equipment of the time as Toscanini insisted the engineers capture all of the dynamics of the music, especially in Circuses and Epiphany.
- The movement Circenses is played on a loop outside the ride 'Escape from Pompeii' in Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, Virginia.
- Freed, Richard (Sep 2003). "Program notes to Feste Romane". www.kennedy-center.org.
- Rodman, Michael. "Feste romane (Roman Festivals), symphonic poem, P.157". www.allmusic.com.
- Mangum, John. "Feste Romane". www.laphil.com.