Watch “Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 3 – Sir Neville Marriner, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra” on YouTube

Ancient Airs and Dances

Ancient Airs and Dances (Italian: Antiche arie e danze) is a set of three orchestral suites by Italian composerOttorino Respighi, freely transcribed from original pieces for lute. In addition to being a renowned composer and conductor, Respighi was also a notable musicologist. His interest in Italian music of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries led him to compose works inspired by the music of these periods.

Suite No. 1 (1917)Edit

Ancient Airs, Suite No. 1

  1. Balletto, “Il Conte Orlando”
  2. Gagliarda

  3. Villanella

  4. Passo mezzo e mascherada

Problems playing these files? See media help.
Suite No. 1 P 109 was composed in 1917. It was based on Renaissance lute pieces by Simone Molinaro, Vincenzo Galilei (father of Galileo Galilei) and additional anonymous composers.

Balletto: “Il Conte Orlando” (Simone Molinaro, 1599)

Gagliarda (Vincenzo Galilei, 1550s)

Villanella (anonymous, end of 16th century)

Passo mezzo e mascherada (anonymous, end of 16th century)

The orchestration calls for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in F, trumpet in D, harp, harpsichord and strings.

Suite No. 2 (1923)Edit

Suite No. 2, P 138 was composed in 1923. It was based on pieces for lute, archlute, and viol by Fabritio Caroso, Jean-Baptiste Besard, Bernardo Gianoncelli, and an anonymous composer. It also includes an aria attributed to Marin Mersenne.

Laura soave: balletto con gagliarda, saltarello e canario (Fabritio Caroso)

Danza rustica (Jean-Baptiste Besard)

Campanae parisienses (anonymous) & Aria (attributed to Marin Mersenne)

Bergamasca (Bernardo Gianoncelli, 1650)

The orchestration calls for an average-sized orchestra of 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in A/B♭, 2 bassoons, 3 horns in D (doubling 2 horns in E/F), 2 trumpets in A/D (doubling trumpet in C), 3 trombones, 3 timpani, celesta, harpsichord 4-hands, harp and strings.

Suite No. 3 (1932)Edit

Suite No. 3, P 172 was composed in 1932. It differs from the previous two suites in that it is arranged for strings only and somewhat melancholy in overall mood. (A note by the composer in the printed score states that the work may also be performed by a string quartet, completely omitting the double-bass part.) It is based on lute songs by Besard, a piece for Baroque guitar by Ludovico Roncalli, and lute pieces by Santino Garsi da Parma and additional anonymous composers.

Italiana (Anonymous: Italiana(Fine sec. XVI) – Andantino)

Arie di corte (Jean-Baptiste Besard: Arie di corte (Sec. XVI) – Andante cantabile – Allegretto – Vivace – Slow with great expression – Allegro vivace – Vivacissimo – Andante cantabile)

Siciliana (Anonymous: Siciliana(Fine sec. XVI) – Andantino)

Passacaglia (Lodovico Roncalli: Passacaglia (1692) – Maestoso – Vivace)

Piano reductionsEdit

The Ancient Airs and Dances first two suites were freely transcribed by the composer for piano (2 and 4 hands).


There have been many recordings of the suites in their entirety, and individually, with Suite No. 3 most frequently appearing alone. Recordings include:

Philharmonia Hungarica, Antal Dorati (Mercury)

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa (DG)

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Sir Neville Marriner (EMI)

Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Jesús López-Cobos (Telarc)

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Hugh Wolff (Teldec)

Australian Chamber Orchestra, Christopher Lyndon-Gee (Omega)

Sinfonia 21, Richard Hickox(Chandos)

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (1 & 3 only) (DG)

Rome Symphony Orchestra, Francesco La Vecchia

Suite No. 3 onlyEdit

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan (DG)

I Musici

I Solisti Italiani

Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Sir Neville Marriner (Philips)

English String Orchestra, William Boughton (Nimbus)


External linksEdit

Antiche danze et arie per liuto, Suite No.1, Antiche danze et arie per liuto, Suite No.2, Antiche danze et arie per liuto, Suite No.3: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)

Last edited 4 days ago by Ira Leviton


Ottorino Respighi

Italian composer, musicologist and conductor

Jean-Baptiste Besard

French composer

Julia Sutton (dance historian)

American dance historian

Leave a Reply: (What... You're shy?)

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s