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Respighi became one of the century’s most masterly orchestrators, fond of splashy, flamboyant effects. All his scores are notable for their imaginative, luscious harmonies and ‘sound colour’.
Respighi began his career as a violinist and viola player, and in 1900 went to Russia, where he played first viola in the Imperial Opera orchestra in St Petersburg. Here he took lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov, who proved to be a decisive influence on his compositional style, for Respighi became one of the century’s most masterly orchestrators, fond of splashy, flamboyant effects. All his scores are notable for their imaginative, luscious harmonies and ‘sound colour’.
In 1902 he spent some time in Berlin studying with Max Bruch and he continued his career as a violin soloist and as viola player with the Mugellini Quartet of Bologna. He was made a professor of composition at the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome in 1913 and appointed its director 10 years later. He remained in the post for only two years so as to concentrate on composition full-time. Respighi’s works may lack the ultimate in individuality but it was he and Busoni who revived the Italian instrumental tradition after the domination of the country’s great opera composers.
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