Friday, January 7, 2011

the pines of rome

Starting in 6th grade my school offered band, orchestra and choir.  I started playing flute in the band.  In 7th grade, I started private lessons - the beginning of classical training - that continued through high school.  In 8th grade I saved my babysitting money and bought a piccolo.  I played both through college and a little beyond.  I played in concert bands, marching bands, full orchestras, pit orchestras and in various groups at my church.  I performed for various competitions.  I went to summer camps with my flute and piccolo, too.  I loved it all.

I listen to all sorts of music, but if I have to choose what to play...put me smack in the middle of a full orchestra (the one with string AND woodwind and brass and percussion instruments) and I'm a happy gal.  It's loud.  The floor shakes when the drums get going.  There's a living energy.  There is truly no combination of speakers and stereo systems that can duplicate it.  Believe me, I've tried!

By now the music has started.  "The Pines of Rome" by Ottorino Respighi.

(Turn on your speakers if you've got them!)

This is a piece I've played.  In high school.

I love it. 

So I thought I'd share it.  And a bit about the piece.  I knew a little of the background and inspiration for it when I played it, but I've dug a little deeper for you.  Just like quilters finding inspiration all around them, so do musicians and composers.

The piece is in four movements.  Pines of the Villa Borghese, Pines Near a Catacomb, The Pines of the Janiculum, and Pines of the Appian Way.

It premiered in 1924 in Rome and was booed for the rather obnoxious trumpet blasts at the end of the first movement and recording of nightingale at the end of the third.  But the remainder of the piece obviously won over audiences or we wouldn't be listening to it today.

Respighi published descriptions of his visions in writing these pieces.  (Much like "art" quilts with creator descriptions.)  If we want to get fancy, these would be called symphonic poems.  He was inspired by the pine trees around Rome and the things he saw taking place around them.  Program notes from the Redwood Symphony performance of this piece give the following of his published descriptions:

Pines of the Villa Borghese
"Children are at play in the pine groves of Villa Borghese; they dance round in circles. They play at soldiers, marching and fighting, they are wrought up by their own cries like swallows at evening, they come and go in swarms."

Pines Near a Catacomb
"Suddenly the scene changes -- we see the shades of the pine trees fringing the entrance to a catacomb. From the depth rises the sound of a mournful chant, floating through the air like a solemn hymn, and gradually and mysteriously dispersing."

The Pines of the Janiculum
"There is a thrill in the air: the pine-trees of the Janiculum stand distinctly outlined in the clear light of the full moon. A nightingale is singing."

Pines of the Appian Way
"Misty dawn on the Appian Way: solitary pine trees guarding the magic landscape; the muffled, ceaseless rhythm of unending footsteps. The poet has a fantastic vision of bygone glories: trumpets sound and, in the brilliance of the newly-risen sun, a consular army bursts forth towards the Sacred Way, mounting in triumph to the Capitol."

You may recognize some of the music, as it's been used in movies.  Fantasia 2000 is probably the most well-known one.  (But if you're like me, you get wrapped up in the visual part and the music goes wouldn't think after all that training I would miss it, but I do!)

I hope you enjoy it!

And if I get enough positive feedback, I'll try to do one of these every so often.

Happy quilting (and listening),

PS Because I know you'll ask or wonder...  With all the groups I auditioned for and was accepted into, I guess I'd have to admit I was pretty good on piccolo and flute (being proficient on piccolo opened a lot of doors for me that a flute alone would not - and I love my piccolo).  And when I consider what a slacker I was about practicing, but was still able to pull off performances without a hitch, I suppose I'd have to admit I was pretty good.  I haven't played in a long time.  Maybe I should get it out, dust it off and see how awful I am now!

PPS This recording is of a group of high school students.  If you listen closely you can hear people coughing and a few less than perfect notes.  But I love that much more for it.  It's not polished and perfect and professional.  It's kids showing off their individual talents.  :)


---"Love" said...

Fantastic music! And yes, I love orchestras, and to watch the conductors as they bring in and cut off each section. I must admit I had to stop reading and listen to the music! That happens to me everytime. Not to be rude, but somehow the music always demands my full attention much more than what I'm trying to read. Congratulations on all your musical achievements! ---"Love"

Sandy said...

The music is lovely, Katie. How nice to know a little bit more about you. (I played violin years and years ago.)


Beth said...

Love the music.I too had trouble reading cause I just wanted to listen. You have so many talents. Don't you miss the playing?

Theri said...

Hey, I got speakers for Xmas (lost the cord for the old ones so I have been sound-free computing for years). That is wonderful!

Did you break out your piccolo?