Circuses (Circenses), which brings to life the cruel games in the Circus Maximus in imperial times. A threatening sky hangs over the Circus Maximus, but it is the people's holiday: "Ave Nero!" The iron doors are unlocked, the strains of a religious song and the howling of wild beasts float on the air. The crowd rises in agitation: unperturbed, the song of the martyrs develops, conquers, and is lost in the tumult. A walk inside the ancient Circus Maximus is the perfect time to listen to this music, which indeed sounds like what we might imagine the chaos and hype associated with the games to have sounded like.
The Jubilee (Il giubileo), in which pilgrims during the Middle Ages walk along the highway, praying. There finally appears from the summit of Monte Mario, to ardent eyes and gasping souls, the holy city: "Rome! Rome!" A hymn of praise bursts forth, the churches ring out their reply. Monte Mario is a little over 1 mile north from the Cipro metro stop.
The October Festival (L'ottobrata) describes the popular autumnal festival called the October Festival, in Roman Castelli covered with vines, with its echoes of hunting, tinkling of bells, and songs of love which arise in a romantic serenade. Castelli Romani is a generic name for the hills outside of Rome.
The Epiphany (La Befana) evokes the traditional festival on the night of January 6th, the night before Epiphany, in the Piazza Navona. A characteristic rhythm of trumpets dominates the frantic clamor. Above the swelling noise float, from time to time, rustic motives, saltarello cadenzas, the strains of a barrel-organ of a booth and the appeal of the proclaimer, the harsh song of the intoxicated and the lively stornello in which is expressed the popular feelings. "Lasstece pass! Semo Romani!" ("We are Romans! Let us pass!").
The Fountains of Rome features these 4 movements:
The Fountains of the Turtles at Dawn (La fontana di Valle Giulia all'alba) depicts its peaceful pastoral landscape, where cattle pass at dawn. This is easy to imagine at this spot, even in the Rome of today, since this is within the Villa Borghese park where there is not much traffic (though admittedly no cattle that I noticed)
The Triton Fountain in the Morning (La fontana del Tritone al mattino) begins with blasts of horns and trills from the orchestra, conjuring up the image of joyful tritons and water-nymphs mingling and splashing at the Triton Fountain. Wow, when you listen to this at the Triton Fountain (in the morning, if you can), you'll hear that Respighi absolutely nailed this fountain. First the Triton blows his conch shell, then the water splashes over the edges of the huge shell in the morning sunshine! The sounds describe the fountain beautifully.
The Trevi Fountain at Mid-Day (La fontana di Trevi al meriggio), with a solemn theme, changes into a triumphal character depicting Oceanus' chariot passing across the water, drawn by seahorses, followed by tritons and sirens.
The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset (La fontana di Villa Medici al tramonto), in which birds sing and bells toll to close the day at the Fountain at Villa Medici. I can vouch that the superb views over Rome from this spot, and the lack of traffic and noise indeed justify this vision of a peaceful end of a day painted in sound by Respighi. Just go there and listen to this music.
The Pines of Rome features these 4 movements:
The Pines of the Villa Borghese (I pini di Villa Borghese) captures the energy and irreverence of children at play in the Villa Borghese, including a discordant trumpet "raspberry" towards the end.
The Pines of the Janiculum (I pini del Gianicolo) is probably my favorite movement, a beautiful slow nocturne evoking the view over Rome from the Janiculum (Giancolo) Hill, south of the Vatican. The recorded sound of a nightingale near the end is one of the first instances where a recorded sound is specified for a concert score. What a spectacular view of Rome this hill provides! As I stood there under those pines overlooking the Eternal City listening to this music, I reflected on the stately serenity of these pines, watching Rome through its ages of conquest, religion, poverty and recovery.
The Pines of the Appian Way (I pini della Via Appia) transforms the mood of the previous movement into a long crescendo which becomes a loud, exciting march that evokes Ancient Rome, a triumph heading back to Rome from the Provinces, its one-time world dominance. What an incredible ending to these paintings of Rome!