Music and Vision homepage



TREVOR HOLD has dragged
from oblivion some music
you will not know.

20. Respighi's trittico,
The Bistros of Rome



Following the public acclaim for his earlier 'Roman' works - The Fountains of Rome (1914-16) and The Pines of Rome (1924) - Respighi began looking around for a sequel. But what should it be? There were very few suitable landmarks left to exploit. Amongst the subjects he contemplated were The Pillar-Boxes of Rome, The Taxis of Rome and even (much to his wife Elsa's unease) The Brothels of Rome. Then one evening, as he strolled home from his favourite downtown restaurant, inspiration came: why, he would pay musical homage to his favourite eating-places: The Bistros of Rome! Ideas crowded fast on him and the trittico was completed in less than a week.

The orchestra required is a large one, including such unusual instruments as six buccine [ancient Roman trumpets], five flugelhorns, two tavoletta, sirens and a klaxon. In addition, following their successful incorporation in The Pines of Rome, he includes gramophone recordings of bird-song, this time three, one for each movement: a cockerel in the first, pigeons in the second, and a nightjar in the last. As with the previous works, each movement represents a different place and time of day:

  1. 'Luigi's Place', in the Piazza Novona, at Dawn.
    The hushed hour before dawn; gradually we hear the sounds of life: children dancing an equivalent of 'Here we go round the mulberry bush', mimicking cowboys and indians. The movement ends unexpectedly with a loud 'cock-a-doodle-loo' from the cockerel on the gramophone recording (Decca, B.1002: 'Farmyard Sounds')
  2. 'Mario's', on the Appian Way, at Mid-Day.
    There is thrill and bustle in the air: trumpets peal out, sirens wail, klaxons blare. This is 'Mario's' on a high feast-day! In the rare moments when brass and percussion are silent, the soft murmuring of pigeons will be heard. (Ludwig Koch: 'Songs of Italian Birds', BG 7833)
  3. 'Benito's Diner', by the Villa Borghese, at Sunset.
    What a contrast to the previous movement! Here we are at the nostalgic hour of sunset, the air full of tolling bells, twittering birds, rustling leaves. But, hush! what is that? In the distance, a saltarello has started up, and soon the air is alive with pounding rhythms and bright colours. Then, as the witching hour approaches, the music gradually fades away to nothing. We are left with the tolling bells, twittering birds, rustling leaves etc., whilst the mysterious reeling of the nightjar (HMV: 'Bird-Songs of the Twilight', Z.6105) brings the trittico to a satisfying conclusion.


Copyright © 6 April 2000, Trevor Hold, Peterborough, UK


 << Music & Vision homepage            Ives's Grand Metropolitan Hotel >>