Gioacchino Rossini

From Wind Repertory Project
Gioacchino Rossini


Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (29 February 1792, Pesaro, Italy - 13 November 1868, Paris) was an Italian composer. He was a prodigy who completed his first opera at the age of 14 and was later recognized by his contemporaries as the greatest Italian composer of his time.

Rossini's father, Giuseppe Antonio, was a French horn and trumpet player, and his mother, Anna (Guadarini), was a singer of minor operatic roles. In 1802 the family moved from Pesaro to Lugo, where Rossini’s father taught him French horn, and a local canon, Giuseppi Malerbi, gave him voice lessons. By 1807 the family was living in Bologna, and young Rossini, who was making a reputation as a singer, was also studying cello, voice, piano, and counterpoint (with Padre Stanislao Mattei) at the Liceo Musicale. In 1810 he left Bologna to fulfill a commission in Venice, and during the years of his climb to wealth and prestige as a composer, Rossini lived in Milan, Vienna, and London before settling in Paris in 1824 and becoming director of the Theatre-italien. From 1815 until 1823 he was under contract with the impresario Domenico Barbaja to write an opera annually for each of two theaters in Naples. In 1822 he married Barbaja’s mistress, the Spanish soprano, Isabell Coibran; a year after her death in 1845 he married Olympe Pelissier. While residing in Paris, Rossini gained a reputation as a charming host, a fabulous wit, and a discriminating gourmet. For reasons possibly related to his financial security, the beginning of a lengthy illness, or a feeling of exhaustion, he stopped composing operas in 1829 at the age of 37. He lived in Bologna from 1836 to 1848 and Florence from 1848 to 1855 before returning to Paris. He died in nearby Passy in 1868.

After Rossini’s first opera was completed in 1806, his rise to fame was swift. Five of his operas were staged for the first time in 1812; four more were produced in 1813, of which the most important was the perennial favorite L’ltaliana in Algeri—The Italian Girl in Algiers. Between 1812 and 1829 he composed and produced 39 operas, including his comic masterpiece Il Barbiere di Siviglia—The Barber of Seville (at the age of 23). He also composed a number sacred works, cantatas, string quartets, orchestral works, piano pieces, and numerous songs. Rossini’s knowledge of wind, string, and percussion instruments helped him to become a competent and swift orchestrator. He wrote several solo and chamber pieces for flutes, horns, clarinet, trumpets, and woodwind quartet as well as works for band. According to David Whitwell his Passo doppio, written for military band in 1822 and listed as “lost” by most biographers, was actually revised by Rossini in 1829 to become the final allegro of his William Tell Overture, one of the most popular “band transcriptions” ever written. Equally intriguing is the recent discovery of a march by Rossini (who was a member of the Swedish Academy of Music) in the archives of the Swedish National Collection of Music in Stockholm. Titled Pas Redoublé, it was written in 1836 and dedicated to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Sweden and Norway, the future King Oscar I, after a visit to Paris by the crown prince. A modern setting for band by Lennart Larsson was performed at the 1983 meeting of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) in Skien, Norway. Another original piece for band was discovered in the British Museum by William A. Schaefer, who arranged it under the title of Scherzo. Originally named Fanfara (Band), the work was written for Maximillian, possibly while he was emperor of Mexico (from 1864 until he was killed in 1867). It is also speculated that Napoleon III, who was responsible for Maximillian’s presence in Mexico, requested the dedication. Other band works by Rossini include Three Marches for the Duke of Orleans (1837), March in C—Pas Redouble (1852), and in his final year, La corona d’ltalia, Fanfare per musica militare (1868).

In Armeemärsche II. Tiel, Joachim Toeche-Mittler labels Rossini “a great friend of our military bands.” In addition to works written specifically for wind bands, both civilian and military personnel throughout Europe knew the numerous transcriptions of his opera overtures. Prussian soldiers began marching to Marsch nach Motiven der Oper Moses in 1824, Marsch nach Motiven der Oper Die Belagerung von Corinth—The Siege of Corinth in 1829, and Marsch nach Motiven der Oper Wilhelm Tell in 1830. During the 1867 Paris Exhibition, one year before his death, Rossini served as chairman of the panel which judged an international band contest before 30,000 spectators in the Saal des Gebaudes. After six hours of concert music, the bands representing Prussia, Austria, and France were awarded the “first prize.” The exhausted and ailing Rossini was unable to remain for the presentation of awards.

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