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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

ROSSINI: Six Sonatas for Quartet

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At first glance, there seems to be two groups of opera composers: those that dabbled mainly in concert music and those that dabbled mainly in opera. We can clearly say Gioachino Rossini falls in the latter category – but it’s not to say that he composed exclusively for opera.

Indeed, Rossini “retired” from opera composing in 1855 when he and his new bride settled in Passy, a suburb of Paris. He spent the remaining years of his life writing sacred music as well as delectable miniatures for both piano and voice (some of which he called "sins of my old age"). It is also known that Rossini composed instrumental chamber music early in life, however the only existing pieces were an out-of-print set of string quartets published by Schott in 1823. This set of quartets had been arranged anonymously into traditional string quartet instrumentation and also existed in a configuration for woodwinds. As it turns out, the original parts (on which the published parts were based) were actually written for the extremely unconventional string quartet form of two violins, a cello, and a double bass.

In the 1940s, composer Alfredo Casella discovered (in the US Library of Congress) a set of six string sonatas written by Rossini. From Rossini's own handwriting, we know that the pieces were written in 1804, when he was still quite young - if we are to believe his comments (which he added to the manuscripts much later in life) he says that he was only 12 years old when he composed the complete set of these "horrendous" sonatas in three days. The pieces were written for his friend, Agostino Triossi, who was an accomplished amateur bassist. Triossi, Morini (Triossi's violinist cousin), Morini's cellist brother, and Rossini performed the pieces, apparently in a less-than-stellar fashion. Rossini says his playing (on the second violin part) was the worst of all.

Each of the sonatas follows a similar three-movement format (fast-slow-fast). The second movements contain many soloistic, lyrical passages that foreshadow the style of the composer's great operatic arias. It is known that Rossini studied the quartets of Haydn and Mozart in his younger years, but the musical qualities of his string sonatas are not especially characteristic of these compositional influences. The pieces are, however, imaginative and lively, carrying Rossini's own stamp of originality.

Happy listening!

Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
6 Sonate a quattro, for two violins, cello and double bass (1804)
String Sonata No.1 in G
String Sonata No.2 in A
String Sonata No.3 in C
String Sonata No.4 in Bb
String Sonata No.5 in Eb
String Sonata No.6 in D

Quartetto Rossini
Glauco Bertagnin, violin (Carlo Guadagnini, Torino, 1803)
Kazuki Sasaki, violin (Paolo Castello, Genova, 1776)
Luigi Puxeddu, cello (Custode Marcucci, Early XXth Century)
Gabriele Ragghianti, double bass (Anonymus, French, Early XIX Century)

Label: DAD Records
Catalog Number: DAD003-2
Downloaded from MP3.COM, May 2004
Hyperlink (Internet Archive):

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