Ottorino Respighi

Fontane di Roma (The Fountains of Rome), symphonic poem, P. 106

    Description by Meredith Gailey

    Ottorino Respighi explained that he composed his symphonic poem Fontane di Roma (The Fountains of Rome), "to reproduce by means of tone an expression of nature," and to impart a feeling for the "principal events of Roman life." Based upon the sentiments and visions suggested to him by four of Rome's fountains, he noted in the score that each movement was "contemplated at the hour in which their character is most in harmony with the surrounding landscape or in which their beauty appears most impressive to the observer." The poem is remembered as his most creative turning point, as it constituted his first great success as an orchestral composer and has become his best known work.

    Respighi arrived in Rome in 1913, when it was becoming Italy's most vigorous center of orchestral concert-giving, thus providing stimulation for Fontane di Roma. Prior to his arrival there, he taught at the Bologna Liceo Musicale. While in Bologna, he associated with the lega dei Cinque, an anti-establishment pressure-group, whose members included Pizzetti, Malipiero, Bastianelli, and Renzo Bossi. Although he had studied violin as a child, during this time he was more active as a piano accompanist than as a string player. When he was denied a permanent post in Bologna, he applied elsewhere, gaining a position as professor of composition at the Liceo Musicale di S Cecilia, Rome. He flourished there as a teacher. His students included Elsa Olivieri, whom he married in 1919. Rome, in its positive stage of musical development, provided Respighi with the perfect opportunity to present Fontane di Roma, which, although not immediately accepted, eventually brought him enormous success, wealth, and reputation.

    In Rome, where the water has been good since ancient times, fountains carrying public water are an attraction in nearly every square. The fountains about which Respighi wrote, as well as many others in the area, were actually created in the Baroque style in the seventeenth century by the sculptor Bernini. The first part of the poem is inspired by the "Fountain of Valle Giulia" and depicts its peaceful pastoral landscape, where cattle pass at dawn. Blasts of horns and trills from the orchestra conjure up the image of joyful tritons and water-nymphs mingling and splashing at the "Triton Fountain." The "Fountain of Trevi" at midday, with a solemn theme, assumes a triumphal character depicting Neptune's chariot passing across the water, drawn by seahorses, followed by tritons and sirens. Finally, birds sing and bells toll to close the day at the "Villa Medici Fountain."

    The work had its first performance in Rome on March 11, 1917, and in the United States on February 13, 1919. Shortly thereafter, Respighi was appointed director of the now state-funded Conservatorio di S Cecilia. Fontane di Roma has become inseparably linked with two additional symphonic poems, Pini di Roma (1923-1924) and Feste romane (1929), which were intentionally written as sequels. These works continue to have international success.

    Parts/Movements

    1. La fontana di Valle Giulia all'alba
    2. La fontana del Tritone al mattino
    3. La fontana di Trevi al meriggio
    4. La fontana di Villa Medici al tramonto

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2020
    Decca
    4850415
    2020
    Chandos
    CHSA 5261
    2019
    Naxos
    8574013
    2017
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4797477
    2016
    Supraphon
    SU 41992
    2016
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4796018
    2015
    Brilliant Classics
    94900
    2014
    Various Artists
    Sony Classical
    88843047122
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4793446
    2014
    APO (Analogue Production Originals)
    CAPC 2436 SA
    2013
    Decca / Mercury
    4785092
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon / Universal
    2012
    Brilliant Classics
    94392
    2012
    Concerto / Zebralution
    2011
    Urania
    WS121.111
    2011
    Newton Classics
    8802048
    2011
    Onyx
    ONYX 4083
    2011
    Warner Classics
    2011
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099909798823
    2010
    Ondine
    1165
    2010
    BIS
    1720
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    Klavier Records
    11182
    2010
    Exton
    00217
    2010
    Apex
    2010
    Classic Records
    2015
    2009
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099923767
    2009
    EMI Classics
    2008
    Apex
    4696152
    2008
    Various Artists
    Decca
    443759
    2008
    Sony Classical Essential Classics
    727987
    2007
    Urania
    URN 22339
    2007
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    0946394429
    2007
    Exton
    217
    2007
    Music & Arts
    CD1192
    2006
    Brilliant
    7565
    2006
    RCA Red Seal
    71614
    2006
    Decca
    000771602
    2005
    Stradivarius
    33688
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243586549
    2004
    Rca Red Seal
    82876608692
    2003
    Past Perfect
    205633
    2003
    Various Artists
    History
    45515
    2002
    Aura Classics
    0250
    2002
    Cascavelle
    6150
    2002
    Sony Music
    48267
    2002
    Telarc Distribution
    80085
    2002
    Chandos
    10035
    2002
    Mark Custom Recording
    4363
    2001
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469 181-2GP2
    2001
    Delos
    3287
    2001
    JVC Compact Discs
    8
    2001
    Unesco
    70722
    2000
    T-Rax
    29
    2000
    Telarc Distribution
    80505
    2000
    Q Disc
    97015
    1999
    Rene Gailly
    87157
    1999
    Seraphim Classics
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243573291
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution
    55062
    1998
    Dutton Laboratories
    5019
    1998
    Testament
    1108
    1997
    Deutsche Grammophon
    449724
    1997
    EMI Music Distribution
    55600
    1997
    Conifer
    75605 51292-2
    1996
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243569358
    1995
    RCA Victor
    68079
    1995
    Vanguard
    EVC9018
    1994
    BMG
    62675
    1994
    Naxos
    550539
    1993
    Deutsche Grammophon
    437534
    1993
    Naxos
    550539
    1992
    Chandos
    8989
    1992
    SBK Records
    48267
    1991
    Chesky Records
    18
    1990
    Mercury
    432007
    1990
    Mercury
    1990
    EMI Music Distribution
    47316
    1987
    Deutsche Grammophon
    415846
    1984
    Decca
    1983
    London
    410145
    History
    204565
    Koch
    7704
    RCA
    72374
    RFCM Symphony Orchestra
    Decca
    000837002
    Decca
    97015
    Past Perfect
    205638
    Pearl
    9922
    RCA Silver Seal
    60486
    London
    444106
    Philips
    432133
    Warner Music
    Bescol
    521
    Deutsche Grammophon
    413822
    Alfa
    1010
    RCA
    61401
    RCA
    5407
    Teldec
    18970
    Teldec
    9031762632
    RCA
    60262
    BBC Music Magazine
    277
    EMI Music Distribution
    69831
    Fono Teca
    971103
    UBS
    2006