G A Rossini – Stabat Mater
April 10 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Gioachino Antonio Rossini (29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868) was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some sacred music. He set new standards for both comic and serious opera before retiring from large-scale composition while still in his thirties, at the height of his popularity.
Born in Pesaro on the Adriatic coast in 1802 the family moved to Lugo, near Ravenna, where Rossini received a good basic education which included music. He studied the horn with his father and other music with a priest, Giuseppe Malerbe, whose extensive library contained works by Haydn and Mozart, both little known in Italy at the time, but inspirational to the young Rossini. He was a quick learner, and by the age of twelve he had composed a set of six sonatas for four stringed instruments, which were performed under the aegis of a rich patron in 1804. Two years later he was admitted to the recently opened Liceo Musicale, Bologna, initially studying singing, cello and piano, and joining the composition class soon afterwards. After two years he was invited to continue his studies. He declined the offer: the strict academic regime of the Liceo had given him a solid compositional technique, but as his biographer Richard Osborne puts it, “his instinct to continue his education in the real world finally asserted itself”.
The main operatic centre in north eastern Italy was Venice; under the tutelage of the composer Giovanni Morandi Rossini moved there in late 1810; his first full opera was performed in Venice in 1810 when he was 18 years old. In the period 1810–1823 he wrote 34 operas for the Italian stage; this productivity necessitated an almost formulaic approach for some components (such as overtures) and a certain amount of self-borrowing. During this period he produced his most popular works including L’italiana in Algeri, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La Cenerentola, Otello, Tancredi and Semiramide. In 1824 he was contracted by the Opéra in Paris, for which he produced an opera to celebrate the coronation of Charles X, Il viaggio a Reims (later cannibalised for his first opera in French, Le comte Ory), revisions of two of his Italian operas, Le siège de Corinthe and Moïse, and in 1829 his last opera, Guillaume Tell.
Rossini’s withdrawal from opera for the last 40 years of his life has never been fully explained; contributing factors may have been ill-health, the wealth his success had brought him, and the rise of spectacular grand opera under composers such as Giacomo Meyerbeer. From the early 1830s to 1855, when he left Paris and was based in Bologna, Rossini wrote relatively little. On his return to Paris in 1855 he became renowned for his musical salons on Saturdays, regularly attended by musicians and the artistic and fashionable circles of Paris, for which he wrote the entertaining pieces Péchés de vieillesse. Guests included Franz Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, Giuseppe Verdi, Meyerbeer and Joseph Joachim. Rossini’s last major composition was his Petite messe solennelle (1863). He died in Paris in 1868.
Stabat Mater is a work by Gioachino Rossini based on the traditional structure of the Stabat Mater sequence for chorus and soloists. In 1831 Rossini was travelling in Spain; in the course of the trip Fernández Varela commissioned a setting of the traditional liturgical text, the Stabat Mater. Rossini managed to complete part of the setting of the sequence in 1832, but ill-health made it impossible for him to complete the commission. Having written only half the score (nos. 1 and 5–9), he asked his friend Giovanni Tadolini to compose six additional movements. Rossini presented the completed work to Varela as his own. It was premiered on Holy Saturday of 1833 in the Chapel of San Felipe el Real in Madrid, but this version was never again performed.
When Varela died, his heirs sold the work for 2,000 francs to a Parisian music publisher, Antoine Aulagnier, who printed it. Rossini protested, claiming that he had reserved publication rights for himself, and disowned Aulagnier’s version, since it included the music by Tadolini. Although surprised by this, Aulangier went ahead and arranged for a public performance at the Salle Herz on October 31, 1841, at which only the six pieces by Rossini were performed. In fact, Rossini had already sold the publication rights for 6,000 francs to another Paris publisher, Eugène Troupenas. Lawsuits ensued, and Troupenas emerged the victor. Rossini finished the work, replacing the music by Tadolini, before the end of 1841. The brothers Léon and Marie Escudier, who had purchased the performing rights of Rossini’s final version of the score from Troupenas for 8,000 francs, sold them to the director of the Théâtre-Italien for 20,000 francs, who began making preparations for its first performance.
For this concert we’ll be joined by Cantare Jubiloso.
Conducted by Richard Cock.