Ottorino Respighi
Born July 9, 1879, in Bologna, Italy
Died April 18, 1936, in Rome, Italy
3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, keyboard, strings
Performance time
15 minutes
February 8, 1918
Last Performed by the TSO
October 22, 2023

Respighi’s Fountains of Rome is the first of his so-called “Roman Triptych,” a trio of orchestral tone poems inspired by the ancient Italian city. The first installment of the Triptych is cast in four movements, each depicting a setting at a Roman fountain at a different time of the day. Fortunately for concertgoers, Respighi made his intentions clear through writing his own program notes for the work. He suggests that the opening “The Fountain of Valle Giulia at Dawn” “depicts a pastoral landscape: droves of cattle pass and disappear in the fresh, damp mists of the Roman dawn.” “The Triton Fountain in the Morning” begins with “a sudden loud and insistent blast of horns above the trills of the whole orchestra…. It is like a joyous call, summoning troops of naiads and tritons, who come running up, pursuing each other and mingling in a frenzied dance between the jets of water.” Next, “The Trevi Fountain at Noon” introduces “a solemn theme borne on the undulations of the orchestra…The solemn theme, passing from the woodwind to the brass instruments, assumes a triumphal character. Trumpets peal: Across the radiant surface of the water there passes Neptune’s chariot drawn by seahorses and followed by a train of sirens and tritons. The procession vanishes while faint trumpet blasts resound in the distance.” Finally, “The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset” is announced by “a sad theme which rises above the subdued warbling. It is the nostalgic hour of sunset. The air is full of the sound of tolling bells, the twittering of birds, the rustling of leaves. Then all dies peacefully into the silence of the night.”

Benjamin P. Skoronski