Friday, February 12, 2021

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

No. 352 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at

February’s lone mintage is dedicated to Gioachino Rossini, who has the distinction of being born on Leap Day (February 29th) of 1792.

Born in Pesaro to parents who were both musicians (his father a trumpeter, his mother a singer), Rossini began to compose by the age of 12 and was educated at music school in Bologna. His first opera was performed in Venice in 1810 when he was 18 years old. In 1815 he was engaged to write operas and manage theatres in Naples. In the period 1810–1823 he wrote 34 operas for the Italian stage that were performed in Venice, Milan, Ferrara, Naples and elsewhere. Our montage features half a dozen opera overtures, spanning most of that period.

Rossini's withdrawal from opera for the last 40 years of his life has never been fully explained; contributory factors may have been ill-health, the wealth his success had brought him, and the rise of spectacular grand opera under composers such as Giacomo Meyerbeer. From the early 1830s to 1855, when he left Paris and was based in Bologna, Rossini wrote relatively little – mostly piano pieces for his own amusement. On his return to Paris in 1855 he became renowned for his musical salons on Saturdays, regularly attended by musicians and the artistic and fashionable circles of Paris, for which he wrote the entertaining pieces Péchés de vieillesse. Guests included Franz Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, Giuseppe Verdi, Meyerbeer and Joseph Joachim. He died in Paris in 1868

The latter half of the montage is occupied by ballet music written by Ottorino Respighi, principally based on some of the music Rossini wrote later in his life.

In Rome for a ballet season, Respighi brought the score of Rossini's Péchés de vieillesse to the Ballets Russes’ poobah, Serge Diaghilev. Diaghilev tasked his main choreographer, Leonide Massine, with the task of imagining a ballet to showcase this music along with disparate piano miniatures. The music could have no better advocate than Respighi, whose orchestral flair and Italianate bravura perfectly matched Rossini's lively tunes. One of the Ballets Russes’ most successful productions, La Boutique Fantasque was performed over 300 times between 1919 and 1929. 

I think you will love this music too!

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