As angular, dissonant, and jazz-steeped breezes swept through the musical climate of Europe following World War I, Ottorino Respighi confidently braced himself against the whipping storm with a salvo of his own. He wrote in 1932:
"We take the stand against this art which cannot have and does not possess any human content and tends to be only a mechanical experiment and a cerebral conundrum. In the musical world today there reigns the biblical babel. For 20 years the most divese and disparate trends have been consolidated in an uninterrupted revolutionary chaos.... A logical connection must bind the past with the future, and the romanticism of yesterday must become the romanticism of tomorrow."
Respighi's steadfast sensibilities included most notably a particular sense of orchestral gigantism and real-as-life color, features abundantly on display in the Feste Romane (1928). This work, the last in the composer's trilogy of "Roman" tone poems (the previous two having celebrated the city's fountains and ancient sites) calls for, in addition to a standard configuration of instruments, a number of others intended to evoke those that might have been heard in earlier times: an organ, a mandolin, two tavolette (a sort of drum), and three buccine (a trumpet-like military instrument). The composer prefaced each movement with an elaborate written description to provide a sort of guided tour:
I. Circenses (The Circus Maximus). A threatening sky hangs of the Massimo Circus, 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.
II. Il Giubileo (The Jubilee). The pilgrims trail 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.
III. L'Ottobrata (The October Festival). The October festival in Roman Castelli covered with vines: hunting echoes, tinkling of bells, songs of love. Then in tender evenfall arises a romantic serenade.
IV. La Befana (The Epiphany). The night before Epiphany in the Piazza Navone: 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!"