Financial Aspects in the Correspondence between Respighi and his Publishers


  • Norberto Cordisco Respighi


The objective of the present article is to analyse the financial aspects that have emerged in correspondence between Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) and his publishing houses, which is mainly contained in the Fondo Ottorino Respighi of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, in Venice.The image of the artist focused exclusively on the spiritual elements of his art is to some extent an ideal perpetuated by romanticism. The importance of material aspects are, however, generally well accepted in the figurative arts, when you think that materiality is constantly visible in, for example, painting or sculpture. Musicology, on the other hand, rarely focusses on the financial aspects of a composer’s life − which can nonetheless be very helpful in understanding some of that composer’s choices.In the course of his life, Respighi had various publishers: Bongiovanni, Sonzogno, Pizzi, Ricordi, Universal, Bote&Block, Carish, Chester, Benjamin-Rather, Trieste-Schmidl and the Société de musique russe (Paris). The contracts signed with these publishing houses had their own specific characteristics, some of which will be reviewed in this article. The first contracts between Respighi and Bongiovanni, in 1905, did not include any financial return for the composer. A combination of ingenuity and unfortunate circumstances (after the first performance of Semirama, Sonzogno organized no further performances of the opera and failed to premiere Marie-Victoire) meant that Respighi received no royalties for over a decade. However, at the end of 1920s, he started to publish with Casa Ricordi − which would become his most important publisher. A typical Respighi-Ricordi contract stipulated: (1) a lump sum, (2) 40% of proceeds from renting the orchestral score and parts and (3) 10% royalties on sales of the scores. The lump sum, a highly sensitive element, was frequently the object of difficult negotiations. However, it is probable that Casa Ricordi, especially after the death of Puccini, wanted to diversify its offer by adding more instrumental composers to its catalogue. Respighi was probably its most important composer, in this respect, especially following the success of Pines of Rome. It is therefore hardly surprising that Casa Ricordi showed increasing willingness to accede to Respighi’s demands. In addition, some of Respighi’s works were published abroad. However, in the end, the conditions obtained proved less favourable than those enjoyed with Ricordi − as correspondence with Universal Edition shows.At the beginning of the 1930s, the Great Depression had significant consequences for Italy (production fell noticeably and unemployment increased), affecting the traditional music-publishing business, which was also being challenged by radio broadcasting and “double-disc” records. From 1932 onwards, therefore, Casa Ricordi became less inclined to grant Respighi a high lump sum.Finally, research has enabled us to estimate the extent of the royalties the composer was earning during the 1919-1936 period. In the 1930s, a normal year represented almost 100,000 euros of royalties, before tax − to which we should add his salary as a professor at the Santa Cecilia conservatory and the fees from his concerts. It is therefore no coincidence that in 1930 he bought, from Prince Colonna, an outbuilding in Monte Mario, which he transformed, with the help of architect Marcello Piacentini, into his beloved villa I Pini, where he died only six years later.