At 220 Gioachino Rossini can still rock out with the best of them
Whilst his name may not have the same household ring to it as the names of Beethoven, Strauss and Mozart, Gioachino Rossini remains one of my personal favourites amongst the classical composers.
(The music takes about 20 seconds to kick – click on “play” while you read the rest of this…)
Today marks Rossini’s 220th birthday, a fact Google has noted with one of their Doodles – featuring leaping Leap Year frogs performing in The Barber of Seville. I recall hearing my first piece of Rossini a lot more recently than that, even if it was in my childhood.
That first hearing resulted in my first ever earworm. Hearing the Finale of the William Tell Overture in a cartoon, had the melody repeating itself in my head over and over again for days after. I think it was probably a Disney cartoon, something with Mickey Mouse conducting an orchestra of misbehaving mates. Either way, the piece has stuck with me ever since, and once I was old enough to learn and remember the name Rossini, I began listening to a lot more classical music.
I also then started alarming the odd unsuspecting person by muttering “Gioachino Rossini” under my breath as I passed them. That was especially effective when hearing the Tell Overture used as the theme music for the Lone Ranger television programmes and repeating his name in time with the music.
To my mind, that 3 and a half minute section of the Tell Overture (known as the March of the Swiss Soldiers) would have been the equivalent of rave music in 1829 when it was first performed. The audience must have been either impressed as heck at the demands Rossini put on the musicians to play the piece properly, or amazed that he even dared compose it in the first place!
The useful contributors at Wikipedia tell us that the Overture (and especially the Finale) has since become a significant piece in modern popular culture:
Described by David Wondrich as a “frequent target of plunder by brass bands in the years during which they dominated the American musical landscape”, the overture features prominently in Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse cartoon, The Band Concert. [That’s the one I saw!] It has also been used in cartoons parodying classical music.
One of the most frequently used pieces of classical music in American advertising, the overture (especially its finale) appears in numerous ads, with psychologist Joan Meyers-Levy suggesting that it is particularly suitable for those targeting male consumers. [It worked on me!]
For those that might appreciate a little more of the Overture than just the last few minutes, here is a link to the complete piece as performed by the London Philharmonic under Alfred Scholz.
Buon Compleanno Maestro Rossini!
Know more: A great piece in the Christian Science Monitor about the music of Rossini that you probably never realised was by Rossini.