Author: Christine Richard OBE FRSA

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Thursday, August 31st, 2017 at 9:27 am
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Music Reviews

Filarmonica della Scala 2

Verdi’s Stabat Mater and Te Deum, followed – in almost complete contrast – by Ottorino Respighi’s Fontane di Roma and his Pini di Roma brought my Edinburgh Festival reviews to a soaring close.

The 13th century text for the Stabat Mater depicts the Virgin Mary’s agony on seeing the crucified Christ. It is believed this became a model for universal and individual understanding of the Atonement which, in turn, was meant to earn believers a place in Paradise!

Sung in Italian, which gave a true sense of Verdi’s inspiration, by the wonderful Edinburgh Festival Chorus under Chorus Master, Christopher Bell, and the splendid orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Chailly, combined with the skill of Accompanist, Stuart Hope, gave the audience an entrancing and vivid musical experience. I may be old-fashioned but I enjoy seeing orchestra and chorus dressed formally in black and white, which for me adds to the visual impact, too.

The Te Deum followed very naturally with the lovely clarity of voice and orchestra holding the audience spell-bound. (Actually, another reviewer did say to me: ‘how can they follow that’?)

The orchestral magic of Respighi’s Fontana di Roma was based on the effect of the fountains of Rome and rounded off with the Pini de Roma, giving a musical picture of the effect of the trees on the city. When the latter work was first produced in December 1924 at the Teatro Augusteo in Rome it was an immediate success and remains Respighi’s most popular work to the present day.

We needed to tap in to our collective imagination to the composer’s vision of children playing in the gardens of the Villa Borghese and the familiar principal theme first heard on the horns is confronted by the sound of ‘tiny trumpets’ and snatches of nursery rhymes. We are told this stems from Respighi’s wife Elsa’s memories of childhood songs which she sang.

Full of musical contrasts, again invoking the atmosphere of ancient Rome and the temple of the double-faced God, Janus, who looked forward and backwards simultaneously which I found also appropriate. Using the full range of instruments, the piece builds to a great climax, mirroring the victorious return of a Republican army marching along the Appian way.

The ending is dramatic and powerful, with what has been described as ‘one of the most thrilling endings in music’ with the army entering Rome and climbing Capitolino Hill at sunrise. Respighi himself called the final movement, ‘a fantastic vision of bygone glories.’



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