Royalty Free Music > Public Domain Music > Composers > Gioacchino Rossini (1792 - 1868)
Gioacchino Rossini was an Italian composer responsible for over 30 operas and many works of sacred and chamber music. His most renowned music works include The Barber of Seville and William Tell, the end of which is known in popular culture as the theme song for the popular television series "The Lone Ranger."
Rossini was born on February 29, 1792 to musical parents in a very small town on the Adriatic Sea in Italy. His father was a horn player and also a slaughterhouse inspector, and his mother was a singer. His parents started him very early on a variety of musical instruments, and at age six he was playing the triangle in his father's band.
Rossini's father was a French sympathizer and was one of few that welcomed Napoleon's legions when they entered Northern Italy. In 1796, his sympathy became a problem when Austrians took over the area once again. Rossini's father went to prison and his mother took the young boy to Bologna, where she became a professional singer until her husband joined her. As part of a single-parent family with a working mother, Rossini spent a great deal of his early life with his elderly grandmother.
Rossini had a fairly lonely childhood and was watched by a pork butcher while his parents performed music in theatres throughout the region. He studied the harpsichord for three years from teacher Prinetti or Novara, but the teacher was extremely lax, and Rossini, precocious and already vastly skilled, criticized him for sleepin during lessons and playing the instrument with only two fingers.
Rossini eventually started an apprenticeship with Angelo Tesei and finally found a match for his musical abilities; he learned to sight-read, play accompaniments on piano, and honed his singing skills enough to be able to perform solos at age ten in church. At thirteen, he performed at a theatre for the one and only time in his life.
In 1807, Rossini went to the counterpoint class of Padre P.S. Mattei and shortly after went to the Conservatory at Bologna to take cello lessons. He learned the cello easily, but Mattei's strict views on counterpoint drove him to believe in a much less structured compositional style. The characteristics of his technically complex orchestral compositions are not the result of Rossini's strict studies at Mattei, rather the culmination of what he learned studying independently, most notably the symphonic works of Haydn and Mozart. He was a huge fan of Mozart music and was known in school as "the Little German."
Rossini composed his first opera at age 18 in Venice, "La Cambiale di Matrimonio," but two years earlier he had already won a prize at the Conservatory in Bologna for a piano cantata he wrote. Rossini wrote many operas while traveling in Bologna, Rome, Venice and Milan from 1810-1813. But the works of this period in his life are all overshadowed by his first notable opera, "Tangredi," an arrangement of Voltaire's tragedy. This particular opera is marked by memorable melodies and complex themes which became known and sung throughout Italy.
Rossini continued to write operas for entities in Venice and Milan over the course of the next few years, but the success of "Tancredi" was hard for him to match. In 1815, he went back to Bologna where he made an agreement with the head of the Naples theatre to take a musical direction post at the San Carlo Theatre and the Teatro Del Fondo at Naples. He composed one opera for each theatre per year, and received substantial income, more than most other professional musicians of his time.
Many other Italian composers resented the young Rossini for his success, but his many performances were always greeted with applause. Rossini's operas during this time started to transform into works of music with more structured vocal parts and unique instrumental accompaniments not typically heard in other operas of the time. First produced in 1816, "The Barber of Seville" debuted in Rome. Although this opera was merely a transcription of Paisello's original opera, the success of Rossini's version was so extreme that he got credit for it.
Rossini wrote twenty operas between 1815 and 1823, and of those written, "Otello" marked the composer's transformation into more serious subject matter and directly contrasted with contemporary Verdi's opera on the same subject. During Rossini's life, the tragic close of his opera was hated by the Roman public and he was forced to change it to a more positive ending.
Rossini's life after 1923 was marked by a great deal of travel and many prestigious musical posts throughout Euurope. By age 32, he was able to semi-retire after having achieved complete financial independence. His career in opera ended with "William Tell" in 1829. The music he composed for this work was freer than any he had ever produced and generated serious change in opera history. Although it is still considered a fantastic opera, it is hardly ever played in its entirety because it runs over four hours in length.
Throughout the rest of his life, Rossini continued to compose, though no longer works for opera. He lived in France for a long period and in 1855 moved to Paris and enjoyed a life rich in the arts until he died in his country house on November 13, 1868. Rossini's greatest gift besides his music was his personality; he was known to be very social and people-oriented and was capable of making peace with everyone, including his enemies.