Dear OpéraBouffe from Rome (Italian language link) gives a well-deserved shoutout to the half-forgotten greatness of Ottorino Respighi, that giant of the twentieth century, by far the greatest Italian composer of "il Novecento": OpéraBouffe is raving about I Pini di Roma and Le Fontane di Roma in the awesome Pappano version (and we join her also in the cheering for the talented Signor Tony who, we hope, one fine day will be hired by la Scala as much-needed music director): Opera Chic obviously holds dear to her heart the Respighi illuminated by Riccardo Muti's and Philly's talent, and we also heard Muti conduct Respighi in NYC last winter (and how cool that maestro Chailly just exported Respighi to the US during his recent US/Canada tour with Filarmonica della Scala).
But Respighi's greatest work is without a doubt his Impressioni Brasiliane, "Brazilian Impressions", a deeply unsettling and astonishingly modern work worthy (as it is often the case with Respighi) of a Richard Strauss, a 1928 travelogue in three parts that includes a chilling section inspired by a visit to a snake-breeding farm (and the snakes make the deathly sound of the Dies Irae, you can read more about that here): the best version of IB -- a version that, we fear, won't be surpassed for a long time, if at all -- is the one conducted by another forgotten giant of the 20th century, Oswald Kabasta, and the CD is predictably out of print.
Of course, the tradition in Italy was opera. Consequently, Italian opera overshadowed the work of other Italian composers of the 19th and 20th centuries who deserved much more attention. Because of the operatic tradition in Italy, Italian composers became much more talented in bringing out the colours in orchestral music. You always observe in their music an inclination to imitate the human voice. This is especially the case with Martucci and Respighi.
Martucci, of course, the author of the Notturno that is clearly one of the major works of the 20th century, is one of Toscanini's and Muti's (and, heh, Opera Chic's) musical fetishes. But we'll write about him some other time because right now we're about to crank Kabasta's Impressioni really loud on the sound system.