I had a number of excellent composers to choose from today, so I am going to highlight a couple of them, rather than go in depth on one or two.
Ottorino Respighi was born in 1879 in Bologna, Italy. His music reflects that national heritage, along with many of the places he visited during his creative career. He began as a violin performer and for several years, worked professionally. He struggled with whether to perform or to compose and tried to blend the two for several years. Eventually, he moved to composing. He was a deep believer in the lyricism of the Romantic style and this is very clear in his music.
Respighi studied in both Italy and in Russia, under another composer we’ll talk about shortly – Rimsky-Korsakov. His work was also influenced some by German composers and music. Additionally, the folk music he encountered during his travels often found its way into his writing.
Respighi is best known among brass players for The Pines of Rome. This is a wonderful piece that includes an antiphonal brass choir, which adds a lot of joy to the piece. Once again, this is a popular pieces that has been used in soundtracks and to accompany other pieces of video work. I believe it was included on one of the Fantasia recordings.
Other pieces that are commonly performed by Respighi include The Fountains of Rome, Brazilian Impressions, The Birds, Laud to the Nativity (a choral piece on the nativity from the shepherds persepctive), Suite in E Major, and a series of pieces titled Ancient Airs and Dances. These are truly just a few of his pieces so please do continue to enjoy much more of his music.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Russia in 1844 in Tikhvin, east of St. Petersburg. His early life did not contain the expected music training. He was instead trained as a naval officer. It was after some time aboard a ship that he began his work composing, not even knowing chords. This is quite impressive as he learned much while writing his first symphony, with the help of Balakirev. Rimsky-Korsakov became well known and is one of the group known as The Mighty Handful or The Russian Five, sometimes just called The Five. This group includes Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, and Mussorgsky, also.
Rimsky-Korsakov is best know, probably for his piece Scheherazade. This tone picture is a symphonic piece and is performed often. It musically illustrates the characters from Arabian Night and show much influence from the Arabian culture and music.
Rimsky-Korsakov also wrote other pieces influence by culture, including Russian Easter Festival (Russian Orthdox liturgical themes), and Capriccio Espagnol. He also wrote a number of pieces for symphony, opera, choral music, and some church music later in his life. He was a teacher at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, which is now named for him. While teaching, he had many students who went on to become composers in their own right, including Mussorgsky and Stravinsky. It is said that due to Rimsky-Korsakov, we have the work of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
One last note of a well-known piece from Rimsky-Korsakov – this exceprt from the opera Tsar Sultan – The Flight of the Bumblebee. It was originally a symphonic piece but this excerpt is done on piano. I like watching the hands of the musician.
There are two more composers that I’m going to throw out there with a couple of pieces because I just can’t not introduce you to them.
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) is a Russian composer who escaped from the Revolution in 1917 to the world outside of Russia, never to return. He lived much of his life in Switzerland and the United States, settling in the US permanently in 1935. He toured as a pianist and composed and was recognized as gifted. He is likely best known for his Second Symphony. You might also recognize the theme of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. It was featured in a couple of movies, including Somewhere In Time and Mr. Holland’s Opus.
Finally, let’s mention Maurice Ravel. Ravel was born in 1875. This French composer is considered one of the best in writing for instrumental virtuosity. He created beautiful melody with harmonic uniqueness. His writing is unparallelled in the musical world and it was noted quite early on in his career. He utilized music of the impressionist techniques and used color well in his music. His most famous piece is likely Bolero, which incorporated Spanish dance patterns into two melodies that were repeated over and over, unchanged throughout, with the changes of symphonic color being the driving force. Another of his well-known pieces is Pavane for a Deceased Infant, which actually was his first highly successful piece.
Lori, At Home.
Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.
Featured from last week the letter Q…
- Q is for quit and Q is for Qwirkle over at Our Homeschool Notebook
- Letter Q Homeschool Tips from Homeschooling Highway
- Quintessentially Homeschool from Every Bed of Roses