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Saint Gregory I the 'Great' (c540-12 March 604) was Pope from 3 September 590 until his death. He was the first of the Popes from a monastic background and of all pontiffs had most influence on the early medieval church. For the first minute and fifteen seconds Respighi seems to glance backward at Pope Gregory with sepulchral orchestration, not wholly dispelled till the 2' 17" mark. From thenceforth the scoring underlines the Saint's defining sobriquet -- 'Great'.
Listen -- San Grigorio Magno (Vetrate di chiesa)
(track 4, 3:56-5:03) © 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd
Francis Aidan Gasquet, OSB (1846-1929) published an edition of a manuscript giving the earliest Life of St Gregory the Great, which he had found in the Benedictine Abbey of St Gall, Switzerland. Early last century that printed volume was discovered in St Hilda's Priory Library of the Anglican Order of the Holy Paraclete, Whitby, UK.
Falletta and her players are impressively alive to each facet of Respighi's aural colourations throughout the pictures, written in 1919, while the composer holidayed with his wife on Capri. 'Windows' started out as three piano preludes based on Gregorian melodies and later expanded for full orchestra with their present title. Church windows have nothing to do with the music, though the titles do.
Copyright © 20 May 2008
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand