Rossini was an Italian composer, celebrated for his vast corpus of operas – 39 in total – the most famous being the comic Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). He had an affinity for writing beautifully expressive song-like melodies, heard throughout his music, which earned him the nickname "The Italian Mozart" in his lieftime.
Gioachino Rossini was born into a musical family in Pesaro on the Adriatic coast, which was at the time one of the Papal States. He grew up surrounded by a backdrop of war and unrest: the Napoleonic wars were in full swing during Rossini’s youth and the French and papal soldiers were often in their midst. Rossini’s father earned the nickname ‘Vivazza’ for his enthusiasm for standing up for liberty, which saw him incarcerated in 1800. This no doubt caused great hardship for the young Gioachino and is thought to have lessened his feelings for nationalism in later life.
Nevertheless, the Rossini family were part of the rich musical and theatrical life of the area. Rossini’s father played horn and his mother had lead roles in the carnival seasons between 1798 and 1808, not just in Pesaro but also in Bologna, Lugo and Fano, amongst other cities. During the 1801 carnival season, nine-year-old Rossini played the viola in the orchestra. The family moved to Lugo in 1802 and Rossini’s father began to teach him horn. He also received lessons in singing and composition with Canon Giuseppe Malerbi, under whose influence the young composer wrote many sacred pieces. Around the same time, the family became acquainted with Agostino Triossi, a wealthy businessman who welcomed the family as summer guests to his villa at Conventello. Triossi would become Rossini’s long-term friend and patron, for whom Rossini composed his six Sonate a quattro in his early teenage years and to whom he later dedicated his Sinfonia ‘al Conventello and the Grand’overtura obbligata a contrabasso.