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:
- '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
- '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)
- '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,
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