On the last RCOTW post before the feature went into hiatus, a commenter questioned whether any of the composers I’d highlighted could really be described as “reactionary.” His reasoning seemed to be that if we apply the same definition of “reactionary” to the arts as we do to politics, morality, and metaphysics, the only composer worthy of the term would be one who had returned to writing exclusively Gregorian chants. (My own views on what constitutes a traditionalist or reactionary aesthetic are a bit more lenient, and close to Larry Auster’s. Scroll down to his reply to Karl D. to see the post I’m talking about.) Today’s reactionary composer, the Italian Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936), didn’t quite go that far, but he certainly came closer than most, basing many of his works on the church modes of the Middle Ages and Renaissance rather than the major-minor tonality of Classicism, Romanticism, and the better part of the Baroque, and sometimes even using actual Gregorian chants as thematic material.
Respighi is by far best known for his “Roman Trilogy” of orchestral suites, but he composed many other works as well. Here, I want to highlight the final movements of his Concerto in Modo Misolidio (Concerto in the Mixolydian Mode) for piano and orchestra and his Concerto Gregoriano for violin and orchestra. Aside from illustrating what I said about Respighi’s use of church modes and Gregorian chant, these movements also show that the man could really write a barnstorming finale–both have the complexity of good classical music and the sweep and emotional directness of film music.
Concerto in Modo Misolidio – Passacaglia (Allegro energico). Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Howard Griffiths (conductor), Konstantin Scherbakov (piano).
Concerto Gregoriano – Alleluia (Allegro energico). Performers not named in description.