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Ludwig van Beethoven
Concert in D major for violin and orchestra Op. 61
Symphony No. 4 in A major Op. 90, Italian
Pini di Roma, symphonic poem
Ludwig van Beethoven - Concert in D major for violin and orchestra Op. 61
During his career Beethoven rarely devoted himself to compositions for violin and orchestra; thus, apart from the two Romances op. 40 and op. 50, the Concerto in D major op. 61 represents not only his highest work in the genre but also the only concert written for this instrument. The opportunity was provided by the acquaintance of the violinist Franz Clement, a well-known virtuoso of the time, director of the Theater an der Wien, as well as dedicatee and first interpreter of the opera. The score, begun in the autumn of 1806, was ready in a few weeks and on 23 December of that same year the Concerto op. 61 debuted with Clement as a soloist at the Theater an der Wien, arousing conflicting opinions. The initial distrust of this work - which in the following decades will find its deserved affirmation - was dictated by its not very virtuosic nature. Unlike other concertos for violin and orchestra, where the soloist shows off his skills with all sorts of virtuosity on the four strings, the Concerto op. 61 by Beethoven is instead marked by an elegant and cantabile writing that concedes little to pure virtuosity. The dialectical relationship between soloist and orchestra is also affected by this choice since it is devoid of strong tonal and dynamic contrasts and is not resolved, as one would expect, with the exclusive prevailing of the soloist over the orchestra but with an accomplice dialogue between the two parts.
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy - Symphony No. 4 in A major Op. 90, Italian
Like any scion of a good Northern European family, Felix Mendelssohn also crowned the end of his studies with a grand tour, the training journey that had Italy as its final stop. In Rome and Naples, where he stayed from 1830 to 1831, Mendelssohn collected ideas and musical ideas that he will pour into the sketches of the Symphony in A major op. 90, completed in 1833 and baptized, not surprisingly, "Italian". "It is the gayest work I have ever composed, especially in the finale", Mendelssohn wrote with enthusiasm, thinking of that symphony born in the Bel Paese, whose listening to the first bars alone is enough to confirm what the author said. The Allegro Vivace opens with a resolute and full of momentum theme that with a dancing step introduces the listener into the festive atmosphere that dominates the first movement. The second movement - Andante con moto - has the tones of a nostalgic song, while the third - Con moto moderato - for elegance and gentleness recalls the gallant movements of the minuet, interrupted in the Trio by the rural calls of horns and woods. The final movement - Saltarello - is by far the most characteristic of the Symphony in A major. Mendelssohn chooses the wild folk dance typical of central Italy to trigger a lively musical discourse in an incandescent atmosphere that pays homage to the image of Italy kissed by the sun so dear to romantic sensibility.
Ottorino Respighi - Pini di Roma, symphonic poem
After the success of the Fontane di Roma (1916), Ottorino Respighi returned to the symphonic poem in 1924 with Pini di Roma, four orchestral panels inspired by some symbolic places of the Eternal City. The image of the noisy games of children in the gardens of Villa Borghese opens the first panel, I pini di villa Borghese: here is chasing and intertwining children's popular songs, marches, trills of the strings and fanfares of trumpets in a whirlwind of irrepressible joy. The great lesson of Rimsky-Korsakov, of which Respighi had been a pupil, shines through not only in the dazzling colors and brilliant writing found on this page, but also in the choice of never predictable and innovative timbre mixes as in the following panels. In the second painting the author returns the image of the Roman catacombs (I pini presso una catacomba), with the sound of an ancient psalmody with dark and mysterious tones entrusted to the low arches and horns, while in the third painting, which describes the 'enchantment of a moonlit night, (I pini del Gianicolo) exploits the tonal possibilities of instruments such as the harp, the piano, the celesta, the woods and the strings to build very delicate impressionist style filigree, interrupted only at the end by the song recorded of a nightingale that signals the passage from night to dawn. The fourth and last panel, I pini della via Appia, is a step back in the history of the Roman Empire. In the distance, the legionaries of ancient Rome can be heard advancing at a decisive and martial pace. The spatial effect of the passage of a moving army is masterfully constructed by Respighi thanks to the gradual and well-calibrated orchestral crescendo, where more and more instruments are inserted gradually.