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Gioachino Antonio Rossini 1792-1868

 
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Arnold1740-1802 Gluck1714-1787
Beethoven 1770-1827  
Boccherini1743-1805 Haydn1732-1809
Clementi1752-1832 Hummel1778-1837
Czerny1794-1857 Mozart1756-1791
Diabelli1781-1858 Rossini1792-1868
Dussek1760-1812 Schubert1797-1828
Field1782-1837 Weber1786-1826

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Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an italian composer who wrote 39 operas. He also composed sacred music, chamber music, songs, instrumental and piano pieces.

His best known operas include "The Barber of Seville", and "William Tell".

Gioachino Antonio Rossini was born into a family of musicians in Pesaro, a town on the Adriatic coast of Italy. His father, Giuseppe, was a horn player and inspector of slaughterhouses. His mother, Anna, was a singer and a baker's daughter. Rossini's parents began his musical training early, and by the age of six he was playing the triangle in his father's musical group.

The boy had three years of instruction in the playing of the harpsichord from the eccentric Giuseppe Prinetti, of Novara, who played the scale with two fingers only; Prinetti also owned a business selling beer and had a propensity to fall asleep while standing. These qualities made him a fit subject for ridicule in the eyes of his student.

He was eventually taken from Prinetti and apprenticed to a blacksmith. In Angelo Tesei, he found a congenial music master, and learned to sight-read, to play accompaniments on the piano, and to sing well enough to take solo parts in the church when he was ten years of age. Important from this period are six sonate a quattro, or string sonatas, composed in three days, unusually scored for two violins, cello and double bass. The original scores were found in the Library of Congress in Washington DC after World War II, dated from 1804 when the composer was twelve. Often transcribed for string orchestra, these sonatas reveal the young composer's affinity for Haydn and Mozart, already showing signs of operatic tendancies, punctuated by frequent rhythmic changes and dominated by clear, songlike melodies.

 

In 1805 he appeared at the theatre of the Commune in Ferdinando Paer's Camilla; his only public appearance as a singer. He was also a capable horn player, treading in the footsteps of his father. Around this time, he composed individual numbers to a libretto by Vincenza Mombelli called Demetrio e Polibio, which was handed to the boy in pieces. Though it was Rossini's first opera, written when he was thirteen or fourteen, the work was not staged until the composer was twenty years old, premiering as his sixth official opera.

In 1806 Rossini became a cello student under Cavedagni at the Conservatorio di Bologna. The following year he was admitted to the counterpoint class of Padre Stanislao Mattei (1750–1825). He learned to play the cello with ease, but the pedantic severity of Mattei's views on counterpoint only served to drive the young composer's views toward a freer school of composition. His insight into orchestral resources is generally ascribed not to the strict compositional rules he learned from Mattei, but to knowledge gained independently while scoring the quartets and symphonies of Haydn and Mozart.

Through the friendly interposition of the Marquis Cavalli, his first opera, La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract), was produced at Venice when he was a youth of 18 years. But two years before this he had already received the prize at the Conservatorio of Bologna for his cantata Il pianto d'Armonia sulla morte d’Orfeo. Between 1810 and 1813 at Bologna, Rome, Venice and Milan, Rossini produced operas of varying success, most notably La pietra del paragone and Il Signor Bruschino, with its brilliant and unique overture. In 1813, Tancredi andL'Italiana in Algeri were even bigger successes, and catapulted the 20-year-old composer to international fame.

By his 21st birthday he had established himself as the idol of the Italian opera public. Rossini continued to write operas for Venice and Milan during the next few years, but their reception was tame and in some cases unsatisfactory after the success of Tancredi. In 1815 he retired to his home at Bologna, where Domenico Barbaia, the impresario of the Naples theatre, contacted an agreement that made him musical director of the Teatro San Carlo and theTeatro Del Fondo at Naples.He would compose one opera a year, for each. His payment was to be 200 ducats per month; he was also to receive a share from the gambling tables set in the theatre's "ridotto", amounting to about 1000 ducats per annum. This was an extraordinarily lucrative arrangement for any professional musician at that time.

In 1822, four years after the production of this work, Rossini married the renowned opera singer Isabella Colbran. In the same year, he moved from Italy to Vienna where his operas were the rage of the audiences.

In 1822, a 30-year-old Rossini succeeded in meeting Beethoven, who was then aged 51, deaf, cantankerous, and in failing health. Communicating in writing, Beethoven noted that: “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa; any other style would do violence to your nature.”

Between 1815 and 1823 Rossini produced 20 operas. Of these Otello formed the climax to his reform of serious opera, and offers a suggestive contrast with the treatment of the same subject at a similar point of artistic development by the composer Giuseppe Verdi. In Rossini's time the tragic close was so distasteful to the public of Rome that it was necessary to invent a happy conclusion to Otello.

In 1823, at the suggestion of the manager of the King's Theatre, London, he came to England, being much fêted on his way through Paris. In England he was given a generous welcome, which included an introduction to King George IV and the receipt of £7000 after a residence of five months. The next year, he became musical director of the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris at a salary of £800 per annum. Rossini’s popularity in Paris was so great that Charles X gave him a contract to write five new operas a year; and at the expiration of the contract, he was to receive a generous pension for life.

During his Paris years, between 1824 and 1829, Rossini created the comic opera Le Comte Ory and Guillaume Tell (William Tell). The production of his Guillaume Tell in 1829 brought his career as a writer of opera to a close. He was thirty-eight years old, and had already composed thirty-eight operas. Guillaume Tell was a political epic adapted from Schiller’s play (1804) about the thirteenth century Swiss patriot who rallied his country against the Austrians. The music is remarkable for its freedom from the conventions discovered and utilized by Rossini in his earlier works, and marks a transitional stage in the history of opera, the overture serving as a model for romantic overtures throughout the 19th century. The overture is one of the most famous and frequently recorded works in the classical repertoire.

His comparative silence during the period from 1832 to his death in 1868 makes his biography appear almost like the narrative of two lives—the life of swift triumph, and the long life of seclusion. His first wife died in 1845, and on August 16, 1846, he remarried . Political disturbances compelled Rossini to leave Bologna in 1848. After living for a time in Florence, he settled in Paris in 1855, where his house was a centre of artistic society. Rossini had been a well-known gourmand and an excellent amateur chef his entire life, but he indulged these two passions fully once he retired from composing, and today there are a number of dishes with the appendage "alla Rossini" to their names that were either created by him or specifically for him. Probably the most famous of these is Tournedos Rossini, still served by many restaurants today.

 

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