Respighi was the son of a piano teacher and received as a child violin and piano lessons. From 1891 to 1899 he studied at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna violin and viola with Federico Sarti and composition with Luigi and Giuseppe Martucci Torchi.
After graduating from the Liceo, he had a brief job as a violist in the orchestra of the city of Bologna and then took in 1900/ 01 and again in 1902/ 03 an engagement at the Opera Italiana Theatre in Saint Petersburg. There he met Nikolai Rimsky -Korsakov, in which he took some composition lessons, whose colored treatment of the orchestra influenced him greatly. 1902 he also studied briefly with Max Bruch in Berlin. From 1903 to 1908 he worked again as an orchestral musician in Bologna and became increasingly doing their own compositions as well as arrangements of baroque pieces out. A second stay in Berlin 1908/ 09, where he earned his living as a pianist in a singing school, expanded his musical horizons again and earned him a first compositional recognition outside Italy.
With the performance of his solo cantata Arethusa 1911 Respighi turned increasingly to piano accompaniment. Since his hope did not go to a permanent position at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna true, he took in 1913 as a professor of composition at the Liceo Musicale di S. Cecilia in Rome. His students included from 1915, the composer and singer Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo, which Respighi married in 1919. The marriage remained childless.
Respighi's definitive breakthrough as a composer came in 1916 with the very successful performance of his Fontane di Roma. In 1923 he became director of the Conservatorio di S. Cecilia ( such as the Liceo Musicale di S. Cecilia was called since 1919), this position was in 1926 again, as they did not give him enough time to compose. But his teaching, he continued until 1935.
In his later years Respighi made numerous trips at home and abroad for performances of his works, where he (usually his wife ), occasionally appeared as a conductor and as an accompanist and as a solo pianist. His music also enjoyed great popularity with the fascist government, without that Respighi, however, was getting close to her.
From 1933 Respighi could finish no new original works more for health reasons. He died at the age of almost 57 years from a heart condition. His wife Elsa survived him by 60 years and cared intensely during this time to the care of his musical heritage.
After rather classical early works, Respighi's musical language after the stay in Russia extended. Free form, extended harmonies and a wide range of musical expression in particular from now on the compositions. After Piero Santi is assigned Respighi together with Ildebrando Pizzetti, Gian Francesco Malipiero and Casella Alfredo of " Generazione dell'ottanta " ( the generation born around 1880 ) to. These composers were against the overwhelming power of verismo opera by Giuseppe Verdi, for example, and from their point of view too much influence from France and Germany to the Italian opera culture and researched in libraries and archives for sources older Italian music, which they in their works to contemporary music culture, also infuses influences from all over Europe, processed. Respighi himself opened in his music such as the bitonality. His orchestral works have influences of French Impressionism recognize; the musical language of Maurice Ravel was very close to him. But Respighi was also a representative of Classicism in Italy. Unlike in France, where the group Les Six propagated a new simplicity, the resurrected especially the ease of Viennese classicism, to Respighi turned mainly of Italian music of the Baroque and the Renaissance, whose music he partly new in a sound robe poured ( orchestral Suite Gli Uccelli [ The birds ] ) or used to write works in stile antico Antiche danze ed such as aria by liuto.
- Rè Enzo (German King Enzo, 1905). Comic opera in 3 acts. Libretto: Alberto Donini. UA March 12, 1905 Bologna (Teatro del Corso )
- Al mulino (1908 ). Fragment unperformed,
- Semirâma. Poema tragico (1910). 3 file. Libretto: Alessandro Ceré. UA 1910 Bologna (Teatro Comunale )
- Marie Victoire ( 1912-1914 ). Opera in 4 acts ( 5 pictures). Libretto: Edmond Guiraud (1912-1914, after his eponymous drama [ UA 1911 Paris] ). UA January 27, 2004 Rome (Teatro dell'Opera ); DEA April 9, 2009 Berlin ( German Opera )
- La bella Addormentata nel bosco (La bella Dormente nel bosco ). Fiaba musicale (German Sleeping Beauty; 1916-1921 ). 3 file. Libretto: Gian Bistolfi, according to Perrault. UA 1922 Rome (Teatro Odescalchi )
- Belfagor. Commedia lirica ( 1921-1922 ). Prologue, two acts and epilogue. Libretto: Claudio Guastalla, by Ercole Luigi Morselli. UA 1923 Milan (Teatro alla Scala)
- La campana sommersa (Eng. The sunken bell; 1925-1926 ). Opera in 4 acts. Libretto: Claudio Guastalla, by Gerhart Hauptmann. UA ( in German version by Werner Wolff) November 18, 1927 Hamburg ( Staatsoper). Italian premiere: April 1929 Rome (Teatro dell'Opera )
- Maria Egiziaca (Eng. The Egyptian Mary, 1931-1932 ). Mystery in one act (3 episodes ). Libretto: Claudio Guastalla. UA 1932 New York and Venice
- La fiamma. Melodramma (Eng. The flame; 1933). 3 file (4 pictures). Libretto: Claudio Guastalla, by Hans Wiers - Jenssen. UA Rome 1934 (Teatro dell'Opera )
- Lucrezia. Istoria ( 1935/1936 ). 1 act (3 scenes). Libretto: Claudio Guastalla. Fragment, complemented by Elsa Respighi. UA 1937 Milan (Teatro alla Scala)
- Scherzo veneziano. Azione coreografica (1920). Libretto: Ileana Leonidov. UA 1920 Rome (Teatro Costanzi )
- Sèvres de la vieille France ( 1920). Ballet on French issues of the 17th and 18th centuries. UA 1920 Rome (Teatro Costanzi )
- La magica pentola. Azione coreografica (Eng. The Magic Pot, 1920). In Russian folk song themes. UA 1920 Rome (Teatro Costanzi )
- Scherzo veneziano. Commedia coreografica (1920 )
- Gli uccelli (Eng. The Birds, 1928). Ballet on issues of the 17th and 18th centuries. UA 1933 San Remo ( casinos Municipale )
- Belkis, regina di Saba (German Belkis, Queen of Sheba, 1931). Ballet in 5 images. Libretto: Claudio Guastalla. UA 1932 Milan (Teatro alla Scala)
- Roman trilogy consisting of Fontane di Roma (Eng. The fountains of Rome, 1916) - La Fontana in Valle Giulia all 'Alba; La Fontana di Tritone al Mattino; La Fontana di Trevi al Meriggio; La Fontana di Villa Medici al Tramonto.
- Pini di Roma ( The Pines of Rome dt, 1924) - The pine trees of Villa Borghese; Pine near a catacomb; The pine trees on the Janiculum; The pines of the Appian Way.
- Feste Romane ( Roman Festivals German, 1928) - Circenses, The jubilee; Ottobrata; Befana.
- Christ, Biblical cantata (1900)
- Piano Concerto in A Minor (1902 )
- Burlesca for Orchestra ( 1906)
- Pastorale for Violin and Strings Ensemble ( 1908)
- Sinfonia drammatica (1914 )
- Antiche danze ed arie Three Suites by liuto ( Old German Dances and Airs for Lute; 1916/1923/1931 ) Transcription and Arrangement for Orchestra
- Adagio con Variazioni for cello and orchestra ( 1921)
- Gregoriano Concerto for Violin and Orchestra ( 1921)
- All'antica Concerto for Violin and Orchestra ( 1923)
- Rossiniana, orchestral suite by Gioachino Rossini (1925 )
- Concerto in modo misolidio for Piano and Orchestra ( 1925)
- Toccata (1928 )
- Metamorphoseon, Modi XII ( 1930)
- Lauda per la natività del signore for mixed choir, soloists and orchestra (1930 )
- Concerto a cinque for Oboe, Trumpet, Violin, Double Bass, Piano and Strings Ensemble ( 1933)
- Piano Quintet in F minor
- String Quartet in D major
- Suite for Organ and Strings
- Organ Music
- " Variazioni " for guitar, undated manuscript, probably built around 1909; Reprint by Ricordi
- Arrangements of works by old masters, for example Passacaglia in C minor from a story by Johann Sebastian Bach ( 1930)