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Born: 1792, Pesaro, ItalyDied: 1868, Paris, France

"Music is a sublime art precisely because, unable to imitate reality, it rises above ordinary nature into an ideal world, and with celestial harmony moves the earthly passions."

The son of musicians, Rossini was playing viola in opera orchestras by the age of nine; three years later he began singing professionally. He composed his first opera in 1810 and averaged two a year until he abruptly retired in 1829. During the second half of his life he wrote several sacred masterworks and a host of songs, piano pieces, and chamber music that he gathered under the rubric Sins of Old Age. Equally at home in tragedy and comedy, he revolutionized Italian opera by creating a vivacious personal style and forms that allowed scope for vocal display without compromising the dramatic impetus.

Further listening:

The Barber of Seville (1816)Agnes Baltsa, Robert Lloyd, Francisco Araiza, Thomas Allen; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Marriner (Decca)

Stabat Mater (1832)Soloists; Berlin RIAS Chamber Chorus, Marcus Creed (Harmonia Mundi)