Respighi and Chihara

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Today we note the birthday anniversaries of two composers, one Italian, and one American.

On today’s date in 1879, Ottorino Respighi was born in Bologna, Italy. Respighi is one of the few Italian composers more famous for orchestral works than operas. In 1902, Respighi studied with the Russian master of orchestration, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and the result was a series of brilliantly scored instrumental works for large orchestra.

In 1913, Respighi settled permanently in Rome, and he immortalized that city in a famous trilogy of Roman tone poems: “The Pines of Rome,” “The Fountains of Rome,” and “Roman Festivals.” Respighi died in Rome in 1936.

July 9th is also the birthday of American composer Paul Chihara, who was born in Seattle in 1938. Chihara is of Japanese-American descent, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of WWII, his family, like that of many Japanese-Americans, was relocated to an internment camp. Chihara studied literature at the University of Washington, and composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger.

Chihara has written a number of film scores, and his television credits include “China Beach” and “100 Centre Street.” For ten years Chihara was composer in residence with the San Francisco Ballet, and this music is from his ballet score titled “The Tempest,” after the play by Shakespeare.