Rossini, Gioachino Antonio

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Rossini, Gioachino Antonio (b Pesaro, 1792; d Paris, 1868). It. composer, son of town trumpeter and a singer. As child, apprenticed to blacksmith, sang in churches, and played hpd. in ths. Entered Bologna Acad. 1806 and while a student wrote opera Demetrio e Polibio. In 1810 Venetian impresario commissioned him to write comic opera (La cambiale di matrimonia), and in 1812 his La pietra del paragone was produced at La Scala. 2 operas prod. in Venice, 1813, est. his reputation outside It.—Tancredi, an opera seria, and L'Italiana in Algeri, an opera buffa. In 1814 was engaged as mus. dir. of both Neapolitan opera houses and for San Carlo wrote Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra, in which he replaced recitativo secco with recits. acc. by str. Other operas for Naples were Otello and Il barbiere di Siviglia, a failure at first but soon to be hailed as an outstanding opera buffa. These were followed by La Cenerentola, La gazza ladra, and Mosè in Egitto. In 1822 married sop. Isabella Colbran, who had created several of his sop. roles, incl. in 1823 Semiramide, the last opera of his It. cycle.

In 1822 Rossini visited Vienna, where he met Beethoven; this was followed by a trip to London, where he was fêted, in 1823–4. In 1824 settled in Paris as dir. of the Théâtre Italien, and wrote 3 operas for Paris, incl. Guillaume Tell (1829). Appointed composer to King Charles X in 1825 and after success of Tell was commissioned by Govt. to write 5 operas in 10 years. But the 1830 revolution dethroned Charles, and the new govt. set aside the commissions. Rossini left Paris for Italy in 1836 and for the next 19 years composed only three religious works and some occasional pieces. The likely reason is his prolonged neurasthenic ill-health which followed the intensive work on Guillaume Tell. In Bologna became hon. pres. of the Liceo Musicale and reformed its teaching methods, but left the town in 1848. In 1855 he and his 2nd wife settled in Paris where, for the remaining 13 years of his life, Rossini was the centre of artistic and intellectual life. He also began to compose again, the Petite Messe solennelle in 1863 and the 150-odd piano pieces, songs, and ensembles which he called Péchés de vieillesse (Sins of Old Age) (1857–68). Many of these were first perf. at the Rossinis’ ‘Samedi Soirs’. He was buried in Paris (at his funeral Beethoven's Funeral March from Op.26 was played by an ens. of instr. invented by Adolphe Sax and many of the greatest singers of the day were soloists, incl. Patti and Nilsson). In 1887 he was reinterred in Florence.

Rossini's comic operas have perpetuated his name. Their wit, speed, and grace, their bubbling fun and entirely appropriate orchestration, are perennially fresh. Several of them were written within the space of a fortnight: although there is nothing slipshod about them, the impression of spontaneity remains. Nevertheless his serious works, Guillaume Tell, Tancredi, and Semiramide, contain superb mus., and although Otello has yielded to Verdi's masterpiece, it is still worth hearing. His 2 late religious works are masterpieces, and the sparkling str. sonatas (str. qts.) of his youth testify to his grounding in the classics of Haydn and Mozart. Prin. works:OPERAS: Demetrio e Polibio (1806); La cambiale di matrimonio (1810); L'equivoco stravagante (1811); L'inganno felice (1811); Ciro in Babilonia (1812); La scala di seta (1812); La pietra del paragone (1812); L'occasione fa il ladro (1812); Il signor Bruschino (1812); Tancredi (1812); L'Italiana in Algeri (1813); Aureliano in Palmira (1813); Il Turco in Italia (1814); Sigismondo (1814); Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra (1815); Torvaldo e Dorliska (1815); Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816); La gazzetta (1816); Otello (1816); La Cenerentola (1816); La gazza ladra (1817); Armida (1817); Adelaide di Borgogna (1817); Mosè in Egitto (1818, rev. as Moïse et Pharaon, 1827); Adina (1818); Ricciardo e Zoraide (1818); Ermione (1819); Eduardo e Cristina (1819); La donna del lago (1819); Bianca e Faliero (1819); Maometto II (1820); Matilde di Shabran (1821); Zelmira (1822); Semiramide (1823); Il viaggio a Reims (1825); Le Siège de Corinthe (1826, rev. and amplification of Maometto II); Le Comte Ory (1828); Guillaume Tell (1829).CANTATAS: Il pianto d'armonia (1808); La morte di Didone (1811); Partenope (1819); Il vero omaggio (1823); Il pianto delle Musi per la morte di Lord Byron (1823); Il serto votivo (1829).SACRED MUSIC: Messa di gloria (1820); Stabat Mater (1842); Petite Messe solennelle (1863, 1867).MISCELLANEOUS: Inno dell’ Indipendenza (1815); Soirées musicales, songs and duets incl. La Danza (1835); La Regata Veneziana, song-cycle (1857).INSTRUMENTAL: Introduction and Variations for cl. and orch. (1809); Andante con variazioni in F, ob. and harp; Prelude, Theme, and Variations, hn. and pf.; Str. sonatas (sonatas a quattro), 2 vn., vc., db. (1804), No.1 in G, No.2 in A, No.3 in C, No.4 in B♭ major, No.5 in E♭, No.6 in D. In 1808 Rossini transcribed 5 of these sonatas as wind qts. which are given here in relation to the numbers of the str. versions: No.1 in F, No.2 in G, No.4 in B♭, No.5 in F, No.6 in D. The str. No.3 has no wind version. A 6th wind qt. (in F, 2 movts.) has no str. equivalent.PÉCHÉS DE VIEILLESSE: A large number of works for voices and instrs. (incl. La regata veneziana, mez., pf.) comp. between 1857 and 1868 and pubd. in 13 albums.