Rossini – The Six String Sonatas
The Italian composer Gioachino Rossini lived from 1792 to 1868, born in Pesaro and is of course best known for his operas, including The Barber of Seville. In 1806, at the age of fourteen, Rossini was given the opportunity to study Counterpoint (the simultaneous combination of two or more melodies to make music) in Bologna. During the next four years he composed various instrumental works, mainly overtures and variations. While I have always loved listening to his overtures, I really enjoy these Six String Sonatas for two violins, cello and double bass.
I find these pieces quite charming, fun and so easy to listen to when the mood for a heavy Symphony or thrilling Concerto is unwelcome. The composition for four instruments displays real assurance and the wit and melodic fluency is clearly evident. All six Sonatas are in three movements. The first movements are in a simplified version of sonata form, with secondary themes that extend the first subject. The slow movements are mostly operatic arias in instrumental guise with the first violin being the soprano soloist. Four of the finales are in rondo form and certainly full of Rossinian wit and sparkle, where as that of No 6 a Tempesta – a storm scene, which was to become a familiar ingredient in Rossini’s operas.
Nowadays, when these Sonatas are performed, they are usually played by a string orchestra and a recording by single strings (as per my recommendation) is a rarity to be cherished. As readers listen to these sonatas I am sure you will appreciate that Rossini was an accomplished singer, they a delight to be enjoyed.
My recommendation is:
Rossini The Six String Sonatas in Original Quartet Version with the Serenata of London, ASV Digital – this choice may now prove a challenge to locate
My second recommendation is:
Rossini The String Sonatas on the Hyperion Label, available from www.amazon.co.uk