days, each a brick, have been pushed forward. The years now
constructing a temple of memory. People no longer must stay in the roles
traditionally assigned them.
this, only the men play Bocce on Sunday afternoons.
turns in endless matches until it is time for dinner. When men gossip it is
never called that, but it is.
time until a match, part of our ritual are the
little cheroots we smoke. Outside, in the game, only the sweetness of the smoke
is noticeable, but inside it adopts a spiced-cloying strength which Theresa
says is sometimes too much. It sticks to ones clothes like an erotic
she is willing to risk a kiss or two though. Sometimes, it is actually what she
wants. The wine, the music, the scents of cooking and
smoke. The right ingredients combined by studied chance create a
sensuality which borders on temporary madness. The dichotomy between appetite
and heart temporarily set aside.
sensuality, so deep it occasionally threatens to drown, can be found too in the
art of both Gabriele DAnnunzio (1863-1938) and Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936).
from an old and moneyed family, DAnnunzio was sent to study at the
University of Rome. Spending formative years in a city known for both its
sensuality and direct ancestral ties to his peoples imperial lineage
served to plant the seeds of two of his life long
obsessions, strength based off a unified national identity and passion as
savage as it was sometimes poetic. Seemingly divergent ideas, which when he was
at his best, he would manage to fuse successfully.
DAnnunzio started out as an enfant terrible of literature having his
first collection of poems published by the age of sixteen. Stylistically, he
would quickly switch gears from this first collection, his next one being in a
less traditional poetic format and showing a literary voice, powerful but in
flux. From its nascence there had been evident an ability to convey sensuality
which he would never abandon or lose despite several stylistic shifts over the
course of his literary career.
early years too, DAnnunzio would witness first
hand the passion behind the politics as he paid his dues writing a
gossip column under the nom de plume Duca
Minimo. The rich and powerful, lofty ideals
uttered in public often giving way to uncontrollable passions, ambitions
and the not always discreet assignations which sometimes lead to ruin.
Further fuel for his prose.
around this time DAnnunzio became politically active, immersing himself
in helping to try to create a new nationalism. A trip to Greece inspired him to
attempt a new national poem, a modern Aneid. This
cause would bring together into a loose federation many diverse burgeoning
political factions including what would morph into the fascist regime of
Mussolini. Being a seductive public speaker, the new thirst for nationalism
combined with severely fractured political parties allowed DAnnunzio to
become an elected member of parliament in 1899 serving a three year term as a
non-doctrinaire conservative with revolutionary ideas.
chaffed under the established system and felt it held back potential for any
real progress. In 1900 he helped force a new election by leaving the far right
which he had been part of, joining with the left during a parliamentary
impasse. This put the then left, socialists into power including eventual
dictator Mussolini. In the pre-fascists time though, the left was a form of
socialism advocating among other things, a return to one unified nation and
party, with public health and education programs.
put his own cult of personality as equally important as the national political
agenda, he would not be re-elected to parliament. DAnnunzio having proved
his point and also grown disillusioned with formal politics, seemed not to mind.
critics and intellectuals embraced his writing feeling it built off of
Italys past literary glories while incorporating new ideas from outside
the nations traditional sphere of thought. He is said to be the first to
introduce the concepts of Nietzsche to Italy, often coloring it with the
vibrant hued skins of a fresco wall.
felt he was a corrupter of morals and a passion based deviant.
what would always seem necessary to fuel his imagination was
amores and the lifestyle needed for seduction. Two
years into his term in parliament he moved into the opulent villa La
Capponcina. Even after leaving politics he
continued to live there.
negative feelings of some of Italys important taste makers, the
dissolution of the literary group which had first embraced him and years of
living beyond his means eventually forced him
into a French exile. He continued to write while living in France even
collaborating on an oratorio with Claude Debussy.
the first world war broke out, DAnnunzio was
still living in France. He returned to Italy feeling it was of the greatest
importance for his homeland to join the war, allowing Italy to take its place
as a major power in the modern world. He gave a series of important speeches,
becoming along with Futurist art movement founder Marinetti one of the main
catalysts of Italy joining the war.
DAnnunzio joined the air force, becoming one of his nations war
heroes with a series of daring feats, one of which cost him an eye. It was
while convalescing from this injury he began a new collection of prose.
The intoxication of words which flowed from his pen easing
some of the pain.
the war, while concentrating on his writing, he also obsessed over Italys
loss of Fiume (in a region of Croatia) which would soon turn from its long time
Italian occupation to one of Yugoslavia. It had been assumed that one of
Italys rewards for her part in victory would be this tiny land which they
had occupied for hundreds of years. He led a small loyal private army of 278
veterans to this area setting out to conquer it for himself. Along the way men and supplies were absorbed into
his ranks swelling the ranks to 1000 by the time they reached the city
Italian garrison, not having yet been replaced by a Slavic one, refused to fire
upon DAnnunzio, who by this time was considered a national treasure.
The troops walked through the gates without a
shot being fired.
DAnnunzio envisioned creating a city similar to Goethes Weimar or
Platos Republic. A land where artists helped govern the body of the
people and everyone was to be given daily physical training and an education
which equally emphasized both the arts and more practical trade classes. This
city state would also mirror aspects of a Renaissance state with its various
guilds of both the arts and trade. Newly erected buildings would all share a
similar aesthetical style. A lot of these ideas would be directly adapted by
Axis fascists regimes although with a darker, more
practical bent. Unlike DAnnunzios dream
land however, emphasis on art education under the fascists would be replaced,
changing to arts use strictly as propaganda .
began to attract outsiders from all walks of life and various political
parties. The great powers of Europe were against his rule, feeling
Fiumes fate had been decided long before DAnnunzio proclaimed
himself ruler. A blockade was set up.
Eventually his rule became so far removed from anything to do with Italy or
Italian politics they too had to join the blockade. For awhile DAnnunzio
managed to keep his tiny nation going by adding pirating to his resume.
Italian troops were sent to besiege the city. DAnnunzio actually held out
for five days until the war ship Andrea Dona came into shelling range of the
city. To prove a point the ship shelled several balconies. Despite most
citizens willingness to sacrifice all in his name, in the end he realized
the tiny city state would be shelled to the ground and pay the price for his rule. He surrendered it back to
DAnnunzio returned to Italy and the pen. There was now an
unrepairable rift between he and Mussolini. Both anti and pro fascists courted him,
both sides looking to up public opinion by adding his name to their roster.
DAnnunzio retired to a villa named The Shrine of Italian
Victories refusing to now actively get involved with either side.
this second loss of Fiume, DAnnunzio still proved to be one of the most
popular men in Italy. To keep him from being offended and rejoining the fray in
political opposition, Mussolini would give him a largely honorific title of
President of the Royal Italian Academy (1937), but he would die before taking
office while sitting at his desk writing. This is the beginning of what has
besmirched DAnnunzios reputation. While
not directly given, many of his ideas provided blue prints if not inspiration
for the aesthetics of both Hitlers Germany and Mussolinis Italy.
His monochromatic military uniforms to the pseudo-Romanesque fascist salutes
and the balcony speeches.
man he was idealistically naïve, sometimes dangerously so. In a desire to
create an impractical dream world of national identity he sometimes was aligned
with wrong and dangerous parties.
artist, he left behind a large body of work, some of which is very good and
still offers up a feast for the senses in its poetics. Not his deeds, but his
prose writing was an early inspiration for Ottorino
Ottorino came from a family with musical pedigree
which possessed, if not fame then an open eared ability. His father played and
taught piano, teaching his son violin. He first began his formal studies at the
age of twelve at the Liceo Musicale which after ten
years gave him his diploma for violin performance.
decade of arduous study he took a working vacation. Rather than go to that
timeless capital of all (bohemian) arts, Paris, he opted for the then unique
choice of St. Petersburg. While there he studied under Nicolay Rimsky-Korsakov.
Besides his Russian studies he also became first violin for their Russian
Imperial Theater which better let him put a working, practical application to
the orchestra colorations he was learning from this late-romantic era composer.
absorbing orchestral lessons in Russia he moved to Berlin where he studied
under Max Bruch. Ottorinos years of study
under two distinct composer/teachers and what he had learned while at
university combined with his multi instrument ability (violin, viola and piano)
preventing his music from ever sounding of one place or one people. Aside from
the inherent beauty to be found in his pieces, this is one of its other main
appeals. While always very much an Italian, his music was never merely
Italian in the way Brahms was German.
saw the return to his native land. Once back in Italy he began composing while
becoming an important teacher in his own right. Ottorino did not restrict his work to any one particular
musical genre. His pieces were performed in Italy, often featured in multi
composer programs. This initial exposure helped, but it was his comic opera Re
Enzo that brought the first flush of fame and an
appointment to St. Cecilia Academy in Rome as professor of composition (1913).
During these first years of teaching he collaborated on a text book
Orpheus with Luciani.
provided him with the final ingredients which make up the best of his art. He
would spend the rest of his life in this city of which he would never tire. The
city had two faces and he would be inspired by both. The decadent hot house
where passions blossomed gave him the perfect environment for which to provide
a sound track.
citys ancient lineage, the white marble statues and rituals still
performed which, rope like connected the past to the present also served to
inspire. One of his tone poems ends with a march on Rome, not written for or
inspired by the then in power Fascist, but by her ancient past and the sandaled
troops marching down the Apian way.
Ottorino professed great admiration for the sensual
poetry and DAnnunzio. And like this poet he would draw from the art of
his peoples past while merging it with his own vernacular to create a
modern art for a new age.
some other modernist artists of his time, Ottorino
did not out right reject all art of the past. He
made some beautiful song cycles off of the poetry of Shelly, the English poet
who lived in Italy and whose final post-drowning resting place is by fellow
English exile Keats, in Rome. Aside from a profound knowledge of madrigals and
other older vocal forms, his vocal music was helped by being able to work
intimately with the singer/composer Elsa Olivieri
Sangiacomo (1894-1996) whom he would later
orchestral workings of songs by Italian baroque composers too. Among other
things Ottorino was also one of his nations
greatest musicologists. He would publish works of Italian composers covering
the periods from 16th to 18th century.
Stravinsky would do, Ottorino often combined the
musical high and low forms in his music, as well as the new and ancient. Street
songs, folk melodies and baroque motifs would combine with modern orchestral
colorations and touches of modern discordance.
embracing and building off of the past while boldly forging forward into the
modern world was in line with the fascists basic tenants of thought. With
DAnnunzio discussing the fascist label can become a matter of semantics,
but the lines are far more clearly drawn with Ottorino.
Mussolinis regime all teachers and musicians had to have party-permits
(true of most trades at this time). While having been granted one,
Ottorino was never opportunistic with his art.
Nothing in his catalog was written for or dedicated to Mussolini. In 1931( Bologna) Ottorino was
directly involved with saving legendary conductor Toscanini from an angry
are many more examples which prove which side of the fence he was on. Some of
the confusion has come from people mistaking his history with that of
DAnnunzio. Another key factor is that, while not written for them, the
fascists did use some of his music. It was programmatic tone poems about Rome.
Not Mussolinis Rome, but that of the eternal city.
his will, Ottorinos bronze breast plated
Romans marching down the Apian way were subverted by
a black shirted army waving banners.
not as well known in the states as he should be. Now that history has allowed
emotions to cool and a more accurate assessment of his activities during so
terrible a time to come to light, people should explore his works.
place to start would be with the easiest to find, his trio of programmatic tone
poems The Fountains of Rome, The Pines of Rome and Ancient Airs and Dances for
Fountains of Rome (1914-1916) is the earliest written of the three pieces.
Within in this piece is the passage of a day as witnessed by various fountains
around Rome (Trevi fountain at mid-day, Villa
Medici fountain at dusk). The start is soft and
lush. One gets the sense of the oncoming heat of the day, the water in the
fountains coming to life, cool, not yet having been heated by the Mediterranean
sun. Within the bigger picture painted are cheerful and lush motifs similar to
Debussys Prelude a l après-midi
of this piece is the end of the day, low and softly you can hear (literally)
the tolling of bells, perfect symmetry as the piece ends on
a soft fragile notes akin in spirit to how it began.
Pines of Rome (1923-24) is more varied in what it sought to portray. The start
is kinetic celebration of children at play. This is a pastoral setting which
shows many of the lessons of orchestral coloration he had learned under
Rimsky-Korsakov. The scene during the second part of this piece slows and
darkens. An air of melancholy mystery as the listener is taken into catacombs.
Over a tapestry of strings a horn is heard off in the distance, used almost to
convey a sense of farewell or rest.
last part of the piece takes place among the pines of Janiculum, one of Romes seven hills. A low rumbling
at the start gives a sense of something marching forward, legions who are
partially represented by the brass section swelling and intimating the call of
buccine which is a lower than baritone horn similar
to a stritch. This end piece does not satirize any
type or martial march as Shostakovich was sometimes prone to do. It builds in
volume, a large orchestra all its voice slowly coming in to be heard as one
whole, the voice of a glorious past.
this piece too, Ottorino wanted the call of
nightingales heard, but he did not want an instrument, a flute, to merely mimic
the call of a bird. In his score he called for a recording of a bird to be
played at the appropriate time. Like the tolling of bells in the previous
piece, it is there to hear almost subliminally.
Airs and Dances (1931) come from two 16th centaury anonymous composers lute
dances. Ottorino transcribed these lute pieces for
orchestra. They are dark and lush, the perfectly ripe piece of fruit. Although
done by an orchestra there is no sense of bloat. All the voices of strings are
clearly heard and perfectly layered.
Although this music is programmatic, unlike some of the romantic era
composers tone poems, one need not know the source of inspiration
what it is about to enjoy it.
with the Berliner Philharmonkier/ Herbert von
Karajan version of these pieces. Aside from the aforementioned pieces it also
contains Procession of the Military Night
Watch in Madrid by Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) and Adagio in G Minor by
(1671-1750). Considering how adapt a musicologist Ottorino was and the fact that he did draw inspiration
from older forms of music, it takes the littlest leap of logic to see how well
these other pieces fit into the program. I did not find any piece in this
is unaware of the chronology of each composer represented here, a change in
mood could be discerned but in a far from jarring way.
has been remastered using original image bit
processing. The recordings date from the 1970s when the Von Karajan
was in the midst of cementing his place in the pantheon of great conductors.
What is interesting about this CD is this was far from the usual fare offered
up by von Karajan. He usually stuck with composers of the classical era. There
is no evident awkwardness and you never get the feeling you are hearing an
experiment or working vacation.
original liner notes are reproduced along with a small paragraph which looks
back on the recording in retrospect by the concertmeister.
buying classical CDs there are often two choices, to go with classic
pre-digital age recordings you run the risk of hearing audience members
coughing or that odd live ambient reverb. Newer recordings can sometimes sound
too clean, a digital flatness. With a small amount of research the
definitive recording for almost any recording can be found. This
has the pre-digital warmness without extra noise or even reverb. My only bone
of contention is not with the recording technique, but with the music. What I
have found with some of these intricate, high fidelity pieces is they are
difficult to listen to in a car. The soft parts get real soft, you raise the
volume then the loud part makes a hand do mad scramble for volume control. The
same effect is often had in the music of Debussy and Berlioz.
Bad for driving but headphone paradise.
is 79 minutes long. The entire thing is compelling and lush.
A sensual reminder that once in a while, we should all
order everything on the menu.
will return with more adventures in sound
Fontane Di Roma/Pini Di
Roma/Antiche Danze Ed
Berliner Philharmoniker-Herbert con