I enjoyed reading some of the previous reviews. "Respighi was not a particularly nationalist composer" The Pines of ROME, The Fountains of ROME, ROMAN Festivals???! You really can't get very much more obvious.
Respighi is a very interesting composer. Largely shunned by the cultural establishment in Europe during the post WWII period as a fascist collaborator and militarist, his work has remained stubbornly popular. He was in a tough spot. The good bit about Mussolini was that he revived pride in Italy's noble past and it's really hard not to listen to the final piece of "Pines of Rome" with the ghosts of the Roman Legion marching over the horizon along the Appian Way, not to warm to that. The fact that the Imperial Period was also a period of extreme cruelty, gross social inequality and brutal militarism, well, let's leave that for a bit. For me the most interesting of the three pieces, and certainly the most musically experimental, is the Feste Romane (Roman Festivals). These are the pieces composed most expressly at the wishes of the then Italian government and the comparison with Shostakovich writing under Stalinism is very obvious. I think there's enough in them to suggest that, deeply patriotic as Respighi clearly was, he did not accept that nationalism meant a descent into barbarism and these, for me at any rate, contain starkly realistic musical depictions of some fairly barbaric "festivals". Also, perhaps more strangely, there is a strong Christian/ Medieval element, notably in the meditative and processional second movement, "Jubilee". Not a good title I feel. At the end of the day it's a close call. You will, however, enjoy both these pieces and the top-notch performances, superbly remastered, by Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra, who clearly have no ideological scruples.
My only really serious complaint is that the recording does not include the glistening "Fountains of Rome" instead of the rather underwhelming "Golden Cockerel" Suite by Rimsky-Korsakov. Ach weh das leben ist nie perfekt.