Pini di Roma
National Symphony Orchestra: Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor / Daniil Trifonov, piano, plays Rachmaninoff; Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano, sings Falla - Mar. 13 - 15, 2014
Conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos leads Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, featuring young piano sensation Daniil Trifonov in his NSO debut, along with young mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor in Falla's El amor brujo.
About the WorkAll three parts of Respighi’s Roman trilogy—The Fountains of Rome (1917), The Pines of Rome (1924), and Roman Festivals (1928)—are cast in the same format of four linked sections, and in each case the composer made his descriptive intent explicit. While Roman Festivals presents scenes from four different historical epochs, the time-span is shorter in The Pines and The Fountains, in both of which the four parts correspond to various times of a single day. In The Fountains the sequence is from dawn to sunset; in The Pines it is from midday to dawn, and in direct contrast to The Fountains, in which Respighi had used Bernini’s artifacts as points of departure for extolling the glories of nature, his approach in The Pines, he said, was to "use nature as a point of departure, in order to recall memories and visions." The pines, which are everywhere in Rome, were in this work "to become testimony for the principal events in Roman life."
The Pines of Rome has by now established itself as Respighi’s most durably popular work; it has certain pictorial elements in common with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a work best-known in Ravel’s orchestral realization, which preceded The Pines by just two years. Apart from the two works’ shared position among the most brilliant orchestral showpieces crafted in the twentieth century, both the Respighi and the Mussorgsky/Ravel contain images of children at play; each contains a serenade, each an evocation of catabombs, and each has as its capstone a mighty celebration of ancient glories.
A scintillating scherzo, THE PINES OF THE VILLA BORGHESE, opens the work, depicting children in the shrill delights of their games. One of these, echoed in a popular tune, is the Italian version of "Ring around the rosey." An insistent command from the trumpets cuts through the din and brings the raucous activity to a sudden halt.
THE PINES NEAR A CATACOMB makes use of a plainchant figure to conjure up a mysterious and solemn impression. After a brief tranquil interlude the ominous mood returns; a chant of martyrs, the composer advises, "rises from the depths, re-echoes silently, like a hymn, and then mysteriously dies away."
A piano cadenza and a sinuous clarinet introduce THE PINES OF THE JANICULUM, a voluptuous nocturne colored by the harp, celesta and murmuring strings. Respighi called for the playing of a specific recording of an actual nightingale’s singing at the end of this section.
Following the nightingale’s song the scene changes to THE PINES OF THE APPIAN WAY. As the dawn mists rise and settle, the tread of ghostly legions is felt and, in Lionel Salter’s splendid phrase, "fanfares begin to echo down the centuries." The mists disperse in the blaze of thousands of burnished helmets and breastplates. The already large orchestra swells with the addition of an organ and the augmented brass already noted. Respighi summed up, "To the poet’s fantasy appears a vision of past glories. Trumpets blaze, and the army of the Consul advances brilliantly in the grandeur of a newly rise sun toward the Via Sacra, mounting the Capitoline Hill in final triumph."