NPR logo Respighi's Musical Rendering of Botticelli

Respighi's Musical Rendering of Botticelli

Respighi's Musical Rendering of Botticelli

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'Primavera' by Botticelli Corbis hide caption

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A whole generation of young composers learned about orchestral color at the feet of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. One of his students was the eager young Italian, Ottorino Respighi. While Respighi was in St. Petersburg playing in the opera orchestra, he took lessons from the great Russian master.

Respighi's colorful subjects included the fountains and pines of Rome, and the Botticelli Triptych: three Renaissance paintings by Sandro Botticelli that hang in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

La Primavera, "Spring," has a pastoral melody and its trio of woodwinds. The Adoration of the Magi uses Christmas Carols and bells, triangles, celesta, and harp —instruments that evoke Christmas. And in the Birth of Venus, the strings undulate like waves as the Goddess emerges from her seashell.