1916: Respighi: Fountains of Rome, age 37

Mr. Peabody Says:

What confused me in this four movement tone poem is that all the movements blend together. I had took at a score to figure out for sure when each movement ends and the next begins. Eventually Respighi wrote three tone poems about Rome known today as the Respighi Roman Trilogy.

Giuseppe Sinopoli/New York Philharmonic Orchestra

  1. 0:01 The Fountain of Valle Giulia at Dawn 4:00
  2. 4:00 The Triton Fountain in the Morning 2:35
  3. 6:35 The Trevi Fountain at Noon 3:38
  4. 10:13 The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset  6:04 (End 16:17)

Reiner/Chicago Symphony Orchestra

  1. 25:24 The Fountain of Valle Giulia at Dawn 4:39
  2. 30:03 The Triton Fountain in the Morning 2:25
  3. 32:28 The Trevi Fountain at Noon 3:18
  4. 35:46 The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset 5:20

Total time: 15:42

This is a “Living Stereo” recording from 1959 and 1920, and the sound is amazing. Reiner’s recording is legendary, and this whole recording, also containing La Mer and Pines of Rome, is amazing, so you can start from the beginning and hear a bit more than 62 minutes of extraordinary music by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at it’s peak.


  • piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in Bb and A, bass clarinet in Bb and A,
    2 bassoons
  • 4 French horns in F, 3 trumpets in Bb and A, 3 trombones, tuba
  • timpani, cymbals, triangle, bell in D, glockenspiel
  • organ (ad lib.), piano, celesta, 2 harps
  • strings

The work has four movements:

I. The Fountain of Valle Giulia at Dawn

The first section shows this fountain at daybreak in “a pastoral scene, with sheep passing and disappearing in the fresh and humid mist of a Roman dawn”.[3]

II. The Triton Fountain in the Morning

In the second section “it is like some joyous appeal at whose sound naiads and Tritons come trooping up, pursuing each other and mingling in a wild dance beneath the falling spray.” Figures of the Bernini fountain are seen nearby. The Tritons blow on conch shells, portrayed by the French horns.

III. The Trevi Fountain at Noon

The theme of third section “takes on a triumphal character. Fanfares sound. It is as if Neptune’s chariot, drawn by river-horses and followed by a cortege of sirens and tritons, were passing on the radiant surface of the water, only to vanish while muted chimes sound in the distance.”

IV. The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset

The final section portrays a much more melancholic atmosphere. “It is sad in intent, delicate, restful. Bells toll for the Angelus. Birds twitter and there is a rustling and fluttering of leaves. Then follows the silence of night.


Arturo Toscanini originally planned to conduct the work in 1916, but the Italian composer refused to appear for the performance after a disagreement over his having included some of Wagner’s music on a program played during World War I. It did not premiere until March 11, 1917, at the Teatro Augusteo in Rome, with Antonio Guarnieri as conductor, and the premiere was unsuccessful. Toscanini finally conducted the work in Milan in 1918 with tremendous success. The piece was first performed in the United States on February 13, 1919. Toscanini recorded the music with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in 1951.

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