I always loved Respighi’s I Pini di Roma, and I didn’t need a Disney movie to convince me it was good.
I did get a record of the month when I was a member of Columbia House (Remember them? I bet most people with anything lower than a ‘4’ for the first digit of their age have no idea; The record of the month was sent to us for free if we didn’t immediately respond), and it was Lorin Maazel and The Cleveland Orchestra performing Respighi’s tone poems Feste Romane and Pines of Rome. I had never been so excited to hear something so great that wasn’t Beethoven or Brahms. Until this time I had those Westminster Gold LPs (Best of Beethoven, Best of Brahms, etc.) with the bizarre covers. This might have been the first classical record that ever made an unbiased impression on me with its previously unknown composer and decidedly flat and cold cover art (I think it was a pencil drawing of a Roman landmark, but I don’t remember precisely; It has since been remastered and re-issued with a upgraded cover).
I used to do silly things with the tape recorder and my records, and when you have a crazy child-like imagination, you do crazy child-like things like pretend to have a Sci-Fi TV show that has music that sounds like John Williams’ Star Wars score. This was around 1977, so my inspiration wasn’t anachronistic. I think I titled this fictional show (After another current TV hit) “Rich Man, Poor Man of The Future” or something to that effect. I actually did throw in music from both sides of the record. I must have been responding to the contemporary sounds of these pieces.
I especially was fond of the Pines because there was 3 minutes of loudness at the start, then at the 2nd section (The Pines near a Catacomb) after a brooding quiet, there’s that great build-up to my favorite part that they actually chose not to use in the Fantasia 2000 version. For that, I find that film mostly useless.
The Pines of the Appian Way, however, has always gotten to me in ways I can’t explain as a human being.
I even thought it was exciting to hear again on my weekly listens of The Philadelphia Orchestra concerts on QXR back in the day!
It’s easy to see how pieces like this and Gustav Holst’s equally astonishing suite The Planets had an influence on John Williams and some later Hollywood film scores, and yet, you come back to the originals thinking they didn’t even come close.
I guess at an early age, when one is very unsuspecting, they hear things that pop out in a huge way. For me, another favorite moment (Or moments) would be Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. This literally did pop out.
I was afraid of the last 2 notes for quite some time!
I would also come to love Chicago’s “Beginnings” and Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time Of Dying” for pretty much the same reasons. I was struck by the unexpected. “Beginnings” brings you to this fun, intimate rumba party for its coda and fades so beautifully, and “IMTOD” after a slow exposition breaks out into a long funky jam with a false stop and starts up again.
Now, I could see the similarities for quite some time between classical and classic rock. Besides the fact youngsters probably already knew the 3rd Mvt of Brahms’s 4th Symphony from Yes’s “Cans And Brahms”, or any of the more bastardized classics as played by ELP, where’s the extensive classical audience from my generation hiding out? Perhaps they were all in bands already?
TO BE CONTINUED