Saturnalia by Antoine Callet

Roman Festivals with JoAnn Falleta

Sarasota Orchestra Masterworks Series

The Sarasota Orchestra Masterworks Series brings Max Bruch, Edward Elgar, and Ottorino Respighi to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall this December with the world renowned  JoAnn Falletta as guest conductor. Respighi’s symphonic poems Fountains of Rome and Roman Festivals transports the audience to the storied past of Rome while Elgar’s concert overture In The South encapsulates the misty-eyed romanticism audiences associate with the bygone days of Italy. Bruch’s Violin Concerto no. 1 acts as an intense intermezzo with Alexi Kenney as the violin soloist. 

The Conductor

JoAnn Falletta (1954-)

JoAnn Falletta (1954-)

JoAnn Falletta is the Music Director for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. During her tenure, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra released eighteen recordings, premiered numerous new works, and performed at Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Falletta served on the National Council on the Arts from 2008 to 2012. In 2016, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences inducted her as a member. She also received a Grammy in 2019 for her work with the London Symphony Orchestra.


The concert opens with the English composer Edward Elgar’s concert overture In The South (Alassio). Elgar is world-famous for his Pomp and Circumstances Marches. In The South was the product of a visit to the Italian Riviera in the winter of 1903. Elgar was so overcome with emotion when wandering the countryside of Savona and considering the ancient history of Italy alongside the modern pastoral landscape that he immediately set about composing the piece. The work premiered at the Covent Garden Operahouse in March 1904. It debuted in the United States by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra a few months later. The piece features a descending theme of strings and horns broken by exciting contrasts of brass and a viola solo.


German composer Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto no. 1 compliments the imagery of the Italian countryside evoked by Elgar’s overture. A staple of violin repertory, the piece made Bruch quite successful after its 1866 premier. The piece opens with a slow melody of flutes. The violin solo supplants the flutes. The piece then flows into a beautiful melody which is finished with an intense accelerando and grand chords. 


Ottorino Repighi (1879-1936)

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)

Ottorino Respighi makes up the lion’s share of the performance with Fountains of Rome and Roman Festivals. Respighi is one of the most celebrated Italian composers of the 20th-century because of his “Roman Trilogy” (Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome, and Roman Festivals) of symphonic poems. His works paint a sensual scene of Rome as opposed to Elgar’s winter in the Italian Riviera. 

Fountains of Rome was written in 1916 and premiered in the United States on February 13, 1919. Fountains takes the listener to Fountain of Valle Giulia at dawn, the Triton Fountain in the morning, the Trevi Fountain at noon, and the Villa Medici Fountain at sunset. The melody illustrates the scenes as it begins slowly, builds with excitement, and finally fades peacefully into the silence of the night. This listening tour takes the listener from Rome’s picturesque pastoral outskirts to its legendary agoras and forums.

Roman Festivals was written in 1928 and premiered in the United States at Carnegie Hall on February 21, 1929. Because it is the longest piece in the “Roman Trilogy”, Festivals sees the least programming. The first movement of the piece opens with fanfare which forces the listener to imagine Roman circus games and Saturnalian processions. The second movement features bells which summon images of church bells, Papal feasts, and Christian Jubilee. The third movement induces images of harvest festivals with bells and mandolins which serenade the listener. The fourth and final movement recreates a festive scene in the Piazza Navona with trumpets and trombones as the throng of inebriated revelers. The piece ferries the listener to a time of joy and merriment lost to the ages.

For tickets and more information on this concert visit the Sarasota Orchestra website:


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