Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pictures of Rome

Motivated by my trip to the Eternal City and fond memories from my time in The Protege Philharmonic, I purchased a copy of Respighi's "Pines of Rome" as performed by the CSO under Reiner. I have listened through the work three or four times since it came in the mail this morning. It has been fun to relive my high school orchestra days a little, even in this pathetically detached way. Regardless of the sentimentalism, the beauty of Respighi's work justifies a listen, especially for anyone who has visited Rome. Part of the theme of the first movement, "Pines of the Villa Borghese," was used as the basis for the childhood theme in the movie Shoe-Shine. We watched the depressing, but moving DeSica film in our Italian Neo-Realist film class which ultimately motivated the purchase.

When I ordered the CD, I did not pay close attention to the album art. As it turns out, the cover is plastered with nine images of famous places in Rome including the Colosseum, Fountain of the Naiads, Trevi Fountain, Appian Way, and the Fountain of Neptune. These images make sense on face because both the "Pines of Rome" and the "Fountains of Rome" by Respighi seek to recreate places in Rome through what is referred to as symphonic poetry. In the "Pines of Rome," the last movement is supposed to represent the pines of the Appian Way and this album cover appears to sport at least two pictures of it (maybe three; it is difficult to tell). The third movement of the "Fountains of Rome" is named after the Trevi Fountain and the fountain is also featured prominently in the upper right hand corner of the album cover. The center picture is of the Triton Fountain which is at the north end of the Piazza Navona and the name Respighi gave to the second movement in the "Fountains of Rome."

The project of matching visual representations with musical representations of places in Rome seems straightforward enough, but the album cover also includes a picture of the Colosseum centered at the bottom. None of the movements of "Pines or Rome," "Fountains of Rome," or "Roman Festivals," Respighi's three symphonic poems on the topic of Rome, attempt to depict the Colosseum in any way. It seems that the memetic momentum of the image of the Colosseum alone justifies its inclusion on the cover of the album. Similarly, the Fountain of the Naiads located in the Piazza della Republica is included to the immediate left of the Colosseum. While not as famous a site in Rome as the Colosseum, the fountain is very well known and is often depicted in pictures framed similarly to the one used here. It seems that the Colosseum and Naiads have been included for the sake of making the Roman theme of the CD as recognizable as possible. I guess it is too bad Respighi did not capitulate in selecting the most recognizable locations to title his movements by.

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