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For many music lovers Respighi is even today best-known for a small handful of works -- firstly his 'sound paintings' of Rome; Fontane di Roma ('Fountains of Rome', 1916), Pini di Roma ('Pines of Rome', 1924) and Feste Romane (Roman Festivals, 1929). Secondly La boutique fantasque (1919), and finally three suites of Antiche danze ed arie per liuto ('Ancient Airs and Dances', 1917, 1924 and 1932), inspired by works of Rossini.
Vetrate di chiesa ('Church Windows') comprises four tableaux: La fuga in Egitto ('The Flight into Egypt'), San Michele Argangelo ('St Michael the Archangel'), Il mattutino di Santa Chiara ('The Matins of St Clare') and San Grigorio Magno ('St Gregory the Great').
'The flight to Egypt' moves at an unhurried eastern pace; a scene enacted beneath limitless desert skies. Already Respighi's scoring has unmistakable eastern colouring derived from his studies with Rimsky Korsakov. This tableau shows the finest efficacy of Buffalo's woodwinds and strings.
Listen -- La fuga in Egitto (Vetrate di chiesa)
(track 1, 0:02-1:04) © 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd
'St Michael the Archangel' is generally presented as the field commander of the Army of God; indeed Respighi presents his 'imagery' as combative in character, full of sound and fury for 3' 6", after which a central interlude recalls the languid mood of Respighi's previous 'window'. Finally at 4' 33" Buffalo's brass players return at full tilt. The 'archangel' appears in both the biblical Book of Daniel (Old Testament) and the Book of Revelation (New Testament).
St Clare (1194-1253) was among the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi, Umbria and founded the Order of Poor Ladies to organize the women who chose to embrace monastic life according to the Franciscan vision. Her sanctity and repose are heard in 'The Matins of St Clare'. While her matins have some passing turbulence, this is left behind at 2' 40" and obeisance prevails to the sound of bells.
Copyright © 20 May 2008
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand