Pines of Rome

Pines of Rome (Italian: Pini di Roma) is a symphonic poem written by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi in 1924. It is the second orchestral work in his "Roman trilogy", preceded by Fountains of Rome (1917) and followed by Roman Festivals (1928). Each of the four movements depicts pine trees in different locations in Rome at different times of the day. The premiere took place at the Augusteo, Rome under the direction of Bernardino Molinari on 14 December 1924.


Pines of Rome
1. Pines of the Villa Borghese

2. Pines Near a Catacomb

3. Pines of the Janiculum

4. Pines of the Appian Way

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Pines of Rome consists of four movements, each depicting pine trees located in different areas in the city of Rome at different times of the day:

The Pines of the Villa Borghese (I pini di Villa Borghese: Allegretto vivace)

The first movement portrays children playing by the pine trees in the Villa Borghese gardens. The great Villa Borghese is a monument to the patronage of the Borghese family, who dominated the city in the early seventeenth century. It is a sunny morning and the children sing nursery rhymes and play soldiers.

Pines Near a Catacomb (Pini presso una catacomba: Lento)

The second movement is a majestic dirge, conjuring up the picture of a solitary chapel in the deserted Campagna; open land, with a few pine trees silhouetted against the sky. A hymn is heard (specifically, the Kyrie ad libitum 1, Clemens Rector; and the Sanctus from Mass IX, Cum jubilo), the sound rising and sinking again into some sort of catacomb, the subterranean cavern in which the dead are immured. An offstage trumpet plays the Sanctus hymn. Lower orchestral instruments, plus the organ pedal at 16′ and 32′ pitch, suggest the subterranean nature of the catacombs, while the trombones and horns represent priests chanting.

The Pines of the Janiculum (I pini del Gianicolo: Lento)

The third is a nocturne set on the Janiculum hill. The full moon shines on the pines that grow on the hill of the temple of Janus, the double-faced god of doors and gates and of the new year. Respighi took the opportunity to have the sound of a nightingale recorded onto a phonograph and played at the movement's ending. This was something that had never been done before, and created discussion. The score also mentions a specific recording that references a Brunswick Panatrope record player.

The Pines of the Appian Way (I pini della Via Appia: Tempo di marcia)

Respighi recalls the past glories of the Roman republic in a representation of dawn on the great military road leading into Rome. The final movement portrays pine trees along the Appian Way in the misty dawn as a triumphant legion advances along the Via Appia in the brilliance of the newly-rising sun. Respighi wanted the ground to tremble under the footsteps of his army and he instructs the organ to play bottom B on 8′, 16′ and 32′ organ pedal. The score calls for six buccine – ancient circular trumpets that are usually represented by modern flugelhorns, which are sometimes partially played offstage. Trumpets peal and the consular army rises in triumph to the Capitoline Hill.


The score of Pines of Rome calls for three flutes (the third doubling piccolo), two oboes, one English horn, two clarinets in B and A, one bass clarinet in B and A, two bassoons, one contrabassoon; four horns in F and E, three trumpets in B, two tenor trombones, one bass trombone, one tuba, six buccine in B (two sopranos, two tenors, two basses; usually played on flugel and saxhorns); a percussion section with timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, two small cymbals, tam-tam, triangle, ratchet, tambourine, glockenspiel; one organ, one piano, one celesta; one harp; one gramophone; and strings.

Performances and recordings

Pines of Rome had its premiere on 14 December 1924 at the Augusteo Theatre in Rome, under the direction of Italian conductor Bernardino Molinari, to a positive reception.[1] On 14 January 1926, conductor Arturo Toscanini directed his first concert with the New York Philharmonic which included the American premiere of Pines of Rome. He also performed the piece at his last performance with the orchestra, in 1945. Respighi, who had arrived in the US to undergo a concert tour in December 1925, conducted the work with the Philadelphia Orchestra a day after Toscanini's American premiere.[2][3]

Lorenzo Molajoli and Ettore Panizza both made recordings with the Milan Symphony Orchestra; Molajoli's recording was released by Columbia Records and Panizza's recording was released by Odeon and Decca Records. In 1935, Piero Coppola and the Paris Conservatory Orchestra recorded the music for EMI, released by in the UK by His Master's Voice and in the US by RCA Victor on 78 rpm discs.[4] Toscanini recorded the music with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in 1953. The music was recorded in stereophonic sound by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall in 1957, also for RCA. The latest notable recording of Pines of Rome was made by Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra under the baton of maestro Nejc Bečan in 2013.

Use in film and elsewhere

In addition to Sergei Prokofiev and Gustav Holst, film composer John Williams cites Respighi as a great influence, and his music for the Planet Krypton, heard early on in the film Superman, was strongly modeled after the fourth movement of this piece.

Film composer Basil Poledouris, in his score for Conan the Barbarian (1982) was influenced by various other musical works, including Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky cantata (1938), the choral music of Carl Orff, such as Carmina Burana (1937), and this piece. Poledouris' work on that score is reminiscent of Respighi's second movement in particular, with its rumbling tam-tam, strong brass harmony, rising bass lines, and building string ostinati.


  1. "What's On / Programme Notes - Pines of Rome (1923–4)". BBC Proms 2009. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
  2. Frank, p. 75
  3. Borowski and Upton, p. 391
  4. "". Retrieved 2 June 2015.


External links

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