“Give me the laundress’ bill and I will even set that to music.” – Gioachino Antonio Rossini
Among the many composers and musicians who have left their infallible mark in music, the Rossini crescendo (or Rossini Rocket) has certainly left its mark. This particular sound was originally created by several musical devices, playing together to create a natural crescendo in the music. The Rossini Rocket is a true homage to its creator and remains representative of the temperament of Italian music and culture.
The father of the crescendo, Gioachino Rossini, was born into a small family of two musicians, Anna Guidarini and Giuseppe Rossini. His father had been a locally famous and known trumpeter, but also a slaughterhouse inspector, while his mother, a baker’s daughter, had been a singer.
Rossini started out early, playing the triangle in his father’s band at the age of six. His father was supportive of the French Revolution, even when they arrived to northern Italy. Unfortunately, in 1799, once the old regime was reinstated, he was imprisoned – leaving Rossini’s mother to move to the city of Bologne with their son, where she began earning money by singing in regional theaters.
Despite a time of learning how to be a blacksmith, Rossini found a number of music teachers growing up, including Angelo Tesei. Tesei taught him how to play accompaniments on the piano, as well as how to sing. By the age of ten, this helped Rossini to find solo parts in the local church. He also began composing and writing music and had obviously taken influence and inspiration from Mozart’s and Haydn’s works.
Accounts have it that Rossini wrote his first opera at the age of either 13 or 14, although it wasn’t published until he was 20. By the age of 16, Rossini had already earned a prize for one of his cantatas, at the Conservatory of Bologna, during his time there as a student of the cello. He would go on to have one of his operas produced just two years later, and five others by the time he was 20 years old, two of which – Tancredi and L’italiana in Algeri – would make him world-known quickly.
Rossini soon began building a rich and varied career for himself, earning the respect of his mentors, contemporaries, and audiences across Europe. In 1822, he would meet a sickly, deaf and middle-aged Beethoven, with whom he corresponded frequently. Beethoven seemed to enjoy the young Rossini and his music, remarking once,“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.”
Gioachino Rossini traveled all over the world, holding numerous positions as the composer and musical director for several theaters and places. All in all, he composed 39 operas, as well as some other sacred and chamber music, songs, and piano compositions.
“One thing I believe I can assure you – that of my works, the second act of Guglielmo Tell, the third act of Otello, and all of Il Barbiere di Siviglia will certainly endure.”
In the end, Gioachino Rossini and his amazing work greatly surpassed the popularity of any other previous composers or any of his contemporaries. He lived a long and certainly prosperous life, 76 years old at the time of his death. Even then, it was somewhat of a premature death, seeing as he died of pneumonia in his summer home, in Paris, France.
Rossini certainly left a great impression on the music of his time and our collective history and culture. He is still considered a great innovator in his field, having brought us numerous compositions and operas, and his signature Rossini crescendo – the exciting buildup of orchestral sound over a repeated phrase that one can easily recognize in a number of compositions.