Gioacchino Rossini lived in turbulent times of expiration of old aristocratic order and establishing new era of romanticism. As composer he is known predominantly for 39 operas, while other works are quite significant catalogue of cantatas and instrumental music, sacred and secular vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. Much part of his works remains in limbo. Outside operatic scenes he is known for accidental performances of few most popular works as Stabat Mater (1841) or Petite messe solennelle (1967). But overtures are probably biggest part of his output presented most frequently in philharmonic programs. Some of this pieces beside accompanying the operas became famous as standalone compositions. Sometimes such instrumental instroduction can be more famous than the main work itself.
Rossini’s overtures display characteristic attributes of his musical style. He has light pen, composing fast and easy, no wonder he sometimes used schematic solutions. What really matters in Rossini’s oeuvre is his melodic talent. He had the rare ability to transmit emotions with a single melody. And no matter how much simple or complicated this melody was, message was always clear. Creating in romantic period, Rossini in most of his works was representing classical style with great attention to the style of Mozart, who was idealized by Rossini as absolute musical genius. Following his ideal, Rossini was using creative means restrainedly and in balance with semantics. Scarcely in his late works reflected trends of new era. In his overtures this breakthrough is clear.
|Tullio Serafin - Rossini - Overtures (1964)|
Some contrasts between Overture “La scala di seta” (The Silken Ladder) from 1812 and overture to William Tell from August 1829 don’t show the real span of changes. In his late operas Rossini was romantic more in intellectual and emotional content than in style. These two are very popular pieces in repertoire of every orchestra, just as symphonic overture to Semiramide from 1823. But two of his overtures are known as classical evergreens and whistled even by those persons who do not even know the name of Rossini. First is Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), second La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie). Both were composed during the period of his peak form in 1815 and 1917, both are representing best features of Rossini’s style and melodic talent.
There are dozens of albums presenting Rossini’s overtures with almost every orchestra and almost most of mainstream conductors. In most cases it is just the element of promotion. This is especially clear when orchestras and conductors known for their achievements in most demanding repertoire are recording music written for small orchestra in theatrical pit. This can be fancy but it is little bit out of its primary assignment. This point of view makes 1964 album of Tullio Serafin so much valid. He is the legend of opera conducting, Toscanini’s assistant and successor, long time leader of La Scala in Milano, patron of many great singers with famous Maria Callas ahead. This time great Italian opera conductor recorded Rossini’s overtures with Rome Opera Orchestra. Italian opera is background of great orchestras. And even though, this is recording of unusually beautiful orchestra sound. Warm strings, clear wind instruments, colorful percussion and interpretations giving chances to sustain the perfectly balanced tones are marks of great work. The set of listed above overtures was augmented by Storm Music from The Barber of Seville. And this is another good example of symphonic techniques by Rossini and precious sound of the Rome Opera Orchestra.