Respighi composed Il Tramonto (‘The Sunset’) in 1918, two years after his first great achievement, The Fountains of Rome. It was a success from the start. It is written for mezzo-soprano and string quartet (with the addition of a double-bass part) or string orchestra, and it was in the latter form that it was premiered in Rome at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, with Bernardino Molinari conducting and Chiarina Fino Savio, to whom the work is dedicated, singing the solo part.
The whole work is pure musical poetry, intense in its expressiveness, crystalline yet colourful in its instrumentation, and delicate in its harmonies. But whether the mood is tender, contemplative, joyful or sad, the composer’s imagination never strays from the links of the basic conception. The main idea is masterfully unfolded and moulds the music to the very end.
from notes by Alfredo Bonavera ę 1988