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Respighi's archaism from an analytical viewpoint

Duilio D'Alfonso - pag. 61-86

The two main concertos of Respighi, Concerto gregoriano for violin and orchestra (1921) and Concerto in modo misolidio for piano and orchestra (1925), are structurally, formally and thematically analysed in some detail, with the speci c pur- pose of evaluating the problematic issue of Respighi’s collocation in the European musical scenario at the beginning of the twentieth century between radicalism and the various revivals of ancient musical worlds. e programmatic archaism already expressed in the titles of these two works consists, namely, in the diatonic space principally characterizing thematic creativity (or re-invention) and in a harmonic context aimed at disempowering the classical cadence. However, the compositional and formal conceptions are evidently inherited from the late-romantic symphonic tradition.

I argue that Respighi’s archaism can be read as a smooth path towards moder- nity, a path refusing the radicalism of the historical avant-garde. e two nuances of Respighi’s Neo-Gothicism expressed in the Gregoriano and the Misolidio (the rst more “spiritual”, the second more “worldly”) point to two slightly di erent a empts at recovering the tradition in a modern way or modernizing late-roman- tic symphonism, by freeing it from the rhetoric of post-Wagnerian language, which was felt to be obsolete. From the postmodern, pluralist perspective, Respighi’s archaism can be viewed as an expression of the multifaceted variety of tendencies towards an equilibrated innovation, innovation without revolution, somewhat in opposition to the radicalism of the second Viennese school. 

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