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Giaochino Rossini (1792-1868) was prolific Italian composer best known for his operas, which include William Tell and The Barber of Seville.  He grew up mostly in Bologna in a musical family.  The Rossinis wasted no time starting their son’s musical education: Rossini’s father, a horn player, had his son playing the triangle in his ensembles by the age of 6.  It paid off: Rossini finished his first opera when he was 17.  There followed two decades of continuous composition that would bring Rossini to all of the biggest cities in Italy as well as Paris, and during which time he composed an additional 38 operas, becoming a superstar throughout Europe.  Then, at age 40, he retired from composition almost entirely.  He lived another 36 years writing barely a note.

The Italian Girl in Algiers (L’italiana in Algeri) was Rossini’s fifth opera, written in in 1813 when he was 21 years old.  The mostly comic story revolves around the Bey of Algiers and his desire to add an Italian woman to his harem.  The overture is something of a tribute to Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, with light pizzicato passages interrupted by huge orchestral hits.  It also shows off Rossini’s flair for melodic invention.  It is still frequently performed by orchestras and bands around the world.  The opera itself continues to be performed by major companies everywhere.

An accomplished high school band plays the Lucien Cailliet arrangement:

Georg Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the original version:

Read more about the opera and the overture at Wikipedia, the Metropolitan Opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Houston Grand Opera (complete with a slideshow of their productions), a detailed pamphlet from the Pittsburgh Opera, the Seattle Opera, or get a score from IMSLP.   There is a lot of colorful material about Rossini.  He has biographies on PBS and Wikipedia.  The Christian Science Monitor did a great couple of articles on him, covering his sense of humor and his chronic procrastination.  One final fun fact: Rossini had a leap day birthday.  He had a Google Doodle in his honor on February 29, 2012, his 220th (or 55th?) birthday.

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  1. By Spring 2013 Recap | Andy Pease's Wind Band Blog on 29 Apr 2013 at 12:20 pm

    […] Italian in Algiers Overture – Gioachino Rossini (for multi-clarinetist Victor Chang) […]

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