Exotic classical music inspired by ... Pine Trees?


Some of the most colorful orchestral music in history was composed in the first few decades of the 20th century. One of the composers who worked during this time along with Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy, and others, was Ottorino Respighi.

Pines of Rome is the final piece on our program this weekend and a showcase of the TSO's wonderful players. Screaming brass. Whirling woodwinds. Bombastic percussion. Sizzling strings.

And the Finale movement is as colossal as the Coliseum itself. You won't want to miss this one!

Here's a little more about Pines of Rome. Notes by Dr. Luke Howard.


The Italian composer Ottorino Respighi began music lessons not as a composer or pianist (though he would excel at both later in his career) but as a performer on violin. While traveling and performing, though, he sought out composition lessons from leading composers wherever he was, including Rimsky-Korsakov. He eventually returned to Italy and earned a second diploma in composition before moving from Bologna to Rome. His compositions began to attract as much attention as his playing, and he was invited in 1913 to teach composition at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome, a post he held for the rest of his life.

Respighi’s interests in older musical styles, his facility and knowledge of string playing, and his compositional skill combined to inform all of his musical activities throughout his career. His compositional vocabulary remained rooted in the lush triadic harmonies of the 19th century, with the influence of Impressionism relaxing his harmonic procedures. In 1917, Respighi’s first orchestral tone poem, Fountains of Rome, became an international favorite, and he followed it up seven years later with Pines of Rome. (A third orchestral work, Roman Festivals, rounds out the composer’s “Roman” trilogy.)

Pines of Rome is in four short movements, like a compressed symphony, and depicts pine trees in various locations around the city of Rome, at different times of the day. The first movement represents children playing games in the streets around the Villa Borghese. The slow movement follows, descending in a low dirge into the subterranean catacombs. The third movement is a sumptuous nocturne for which the composer created a highly unusual ending for its time—he asked for a phonograph recording of a nightingale song to be played over the movement’s conclusion. The finale is an epic Roman march that begins quietly (though with some latent menace) at dawn, gathering strength as the sun rises, and culminating in a grand celebration.


Friday & Saturday night we embark on our 'Musical Tour Through Europe' at Timberline Middle School, 7:30pm.

We'll see you at the Roman Pine Trees!

Dr. Douglas Pew, Associate Conductor