Rossini’s operatic oeuvre started with his student composition
Demetrio e Polibio
). By the time it was staged in 1812 he was nineteen years
of age and had already been commissioned, and had staged, three one act
farsi at Venice’s Teatro San Moisè (review
). During this early period he also presented the longer dramma
giocoso in two acts L'equivoco stravagante
Deception) at Bologna. Over a twenty year period until his last opera,
), premiered at
the Académie Impériale de Musique, Paris, (The Opéra) on 3 August 1829,
Rossini composed thirty-nine operas, including two titles involving radical
re-writes in French. Aged thirty-seven he called it a day and never composed
another opera despite living until the age of seventy-six. He had become a
rich man and after the death of Beethoven in 1827 was widely regarded as the
premier composer of his time.
In the accepted manner of the day most, but not all, Rossini’s operatic
compositions started with an overture. In the earlier operas, it was the
tradition and allowed the audience to settle and chatter. There was no
attempt at motif or relating the overture to themes in the opera concerned.
Rossini famously recycled overtures; that to Il Barbiere di
sufficed for three of his works of contrasting comic and seria
content. Initially the overtures were in simple sonata-form. However, those
for the later works, including his longer operas, particularly
and William Tell
(Trs. 5 and 7), involve the
use of crescendo and more complex orchestration. These are characteristic as
is the extended length of the overture itself.
In the far-off days of the LP it was only through the names of the
overtures that the average listener knew of the breadth of Rossini’s
operatic output. Fewer than ten of his operas appeared on LP, including a
in Italian to accommodate Pavarotti, and the
start of a mini-series on the Philips label. Of the overtures, there were
albums conducted by Reiner, Gamba, Abbado, Muti, Gardelli and Chailly, among
others, with the latter recorded digitally by Decca’s renowned team of
engineers. We should not forget the four LP set of what was claimed to be
the complete lot of the overtures by Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of
St Martin-in-the-Fields, neither party renowned for any presence in the
opera house. This was issued on a 3 CD Philips Trio set (4739672). Chailly
was to add a second clutch of seven in 1984. These appeared together as a
Double Decca in 1995 (443 850-2) and have remained my favourite ever since.
None of the sets mentioned were sequenced, as here, in respect of dates of
composition and this provides an interesting insight as to Rossini’s
compositional development in respect of orchestral texture and structure.
This is as illuminating as the length of each of these pieces.
Antonio Pappano, unlike Marriner, is a creature of the theatre and this is
reflected in his interpretations with the Italian orchestra he heads here
along with his experiences in the post of Musical Director of the Royal
Opera House, London. Although he has not, by any means, conducted all these
works in the theatre, his feel for the idiom and its place in the composer’s
oeuvre is reflected in his realisations, not least in the most famous of
all, that for William Tell
. Pappano has performed this work in
) and will conduct stage performances in
London in 2015. One of these will feature in an HD transmission to cinemas
worldwide on 5 July 2015.
The Andante e tema con variazioni in E-Flat Major
is an unusual
addition to an orchestral disc (tr.8). Scored for wind instruments it is
dated 1812, the same year as the overture to La Scala di Sieta
piece also reminded me of one or two of the pièces
included in the series of Rossini cantatas conducted
by Chailly and issued on Decca in the 1990s (Vol. 2 Decca CD 466 328-2).
Maybe Pappano will venture down these byways in future with his Italian
orchestra in Rome: one can but hope. I will conclude by strongly commending
the performance here of the longest included overture, that to,
(tr. 5). Premiered at Venice’s La Fenice in February
was his thirty-fourth opera and his last operatic
composition for Italy. It has its own distinct tinta
which is very
evident in this performance.
In the heading to this review the numbers by each track refer to the
particular sequence in Rossini’s operatic compositions and are mine. None
are suggested on the disc, perhaps because of the difficulty of sequencing
the re-writes for Paris. Similar problems arise with Verdi’s operatic
compositions where there are twenty-eight titles with some authorities
claiming there are only twenty-six distinct works; this despite the major
additions and rewrites in the two other works concerned.
Robert J Farr