Zandonai, Riccardo

Fra gli alberghi delle Dolomiti; echi sinfonici for orchestra

SKU: 1933 Category:


Zandonai, Riccardo

Fra gli alberghi delle Dolomiti; echi sinfonici for orchestra

(1929, revised and subsequently published in 1932)
First performed 5th January 1930, Augusteo, Rome, conducted by the composer.

Born in Borgo Sacco, Rovereto – then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in the Trentino area of Italy – Zandonai studied in his home town and then under Mascagni at the Liceo Musicale in Pesaro (1898-1901). During this period he composed the Inno degli studenti trentini, in other words, the anthem of the organized irredentist youth of his native province. His essay for graduation was an opera called Il ritorno di Odisseo (‘The Return of Odysseus’), based on a poem by Giovanni Pascoli. At a soirée in Milan in 1907, Zandonai’s music was heard by Arrigo Boito, who introduced him to Giulio Ricordi, one of the dominating figures in Italian musical publishing at the time. After the success of the opera Il Grillo del Focolare (‘The Cricket on the Hearth’), Ricordi envisioned him as the natural successor to Puccini. Zandonai married the singer Tarquinia Tarquini, and settled permanently in Pesaro. He was very active as a conductor between the Wars, was honoured with membership of the Reale Accademia d’Italia in 1935, and directed the Conservatorio Rossini (formerly the Liceo Musicale) in Pesaro from 1940 to 1943. He is best known for his operas, in particular Francesca da Rimini (1914 – libretto by d’Annunzio), Giulietta e Romeo (1922), and I Cavalieri di Ekebù (1925), these last two with words by his regular collaborator, Rossato. If other composers born in the 1880s – such as Pizzetti and Malipiero – were keen to overhaul what they perceived as defects in the Mascagni/Puccini tradition of melodramma italiano, Zandonai was content to put his own stamp on that tradition rather than reject it. Francesca da Rimini is a highly opulent and decorative score, with hints of Richard Strauss and Impressionism that attains moments of great beauty, particularly in Acts 1 and 3. What it lacks, however, is the melodic felicity of Puccini; neither does it consistently possess the dramatic surefootedness of that Luccese maestro. If Zandonai’s operas are occasionally given in Italy and abroad, his orchestral works have suffered from an unjustifiable neglect. Several of these were inspired by his native region, including these ‘symphonic echoes’ – as the subtitle has it – Fra gli alberghi delle Dolomiti (‘At hotels in the Dolomites’). Writing to his friend, the critic and academic Nicola d’Atri on 14th October 1929, Zandonai sought advice about the work’s title: ‘Echoes of the Night, symphonic fantasy for orchestra (near the Hotel Dolomites between 11pm and midnight on an August evening). This ‘near’ doesn’t work; I could put ‘in the shadow of the Hotel Dolomites’ […]. The author has tried to gather together nocturnal musical impressions coming from a grand hotel and meld them with the night’. At various points it was called Schizzo sinfonico, Impressione Sinfonica, Impressione del Vero (like the pieces of almost the same name by Malipiero), and, more relevantly, L’Orologio dell’Hôtel Dolomiten, as the work references the hotel’s clock very clearly. The first performance in Rome was evidently not well received. D’Atri reported that there was ‘luke-warm applause, but not general applause – as there had been for Zandonai’s Ballata Eroica [performed in the same concert]. The piece needs revision, a different sequence of events, and a new ending. I said this to Riccardo, and suggested how this might be done…. but he made no reaction’. During the Spring of 1930 Zandonai was evidently hard at work revising Fra gli Alberghi….in readiness for a requested performance in the Teatro San Carlo, Naples. By 1932, Ricordi has published the revised version; the composer was delighted by the appearance of the score ‘which beats all-comers for its clarity and elegance’. Conceived for a large orchestra that includes saxophone, two harps and a piano, the work evinces the rhythmic regularity and even the relentlessness of an elaborate timepiece. After slow parallel fifths in lower strings a buoyant faster pulse is established by the harps, piano, celeste and percussion, over which the saxophone extends the opening string motif into the first main theme (Figure 1); are these sounds of the hotel’s dance band, perhaps? The music moves to a climax at Figure 5. A calmer interlude with parallel root position chords accompanied by a rhythmic tattoo (pages 18-19) leads back to the original tempo and a second march-like idea (Figure 7) with prominent accompanying ostinatos. Fragments of both themes are bandied about over pedal points and four-square patterning from Figure 12; sometimes the underlying rhythmic value is crotchets, at other times it is quavers (from Figure 14). The merry-making of the hotel’s guests and the unceasing march of time suddenly comes to a halt, and the opening string pattern returns fortissimo with much more raucous harmonies. Midnight strikes (Figure 25). After a moment of relative calm the festivities start up again with renewed vigour: the last 14 pages of score are for continuous full orchestra playing very loudly. Fra gli alberghi…could not be called a subtle piece, but it is undoubtedly kinetic and exciting.

Alasdair Jamison, 2017


For performance material please contact Ricordi, Milano. Reprint of a copy from the Musikabteilung der Leipziger Städtischen Bibliotheken, Leipzig.

Score No.



Repertoire Explorer




210 x 297 mm






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