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Music in the Present Tense explores why Rossini has been relatively understudied, concluding that rare performances of his works from the late 1800s until the late 1900s must have contributed to scholarly neglect.

Music writers took Rossini less seriously than Verdi, possibly because for many years, the lighthearted Barber of Seville was his only work in the regular repertoire. On a personal level, Rossini’s persona as a witty bon vivant was quite some distance from Verdi’s typically tragic demeanour, leading some observers to mistake his creations for trivial fluff.

Senici, professor of music history at the University of Rome La Sapienza, uses historical context to point out that among Rossini devotees in his day were the weighty philosophers Hegel and Schopenhauer. Earworms for his contemporaries, Rossini’s melodies haunted listeners and were echoed by gondoliers and farm workers. Freud’s name is bruited about here, as any listener might expect who recalls the Act I finale of The Italian Girl in Algiers in which tinnitus is mercilessly described and evoked in the chorus, ‘There’s a bell-tower in my head’ (Nella testa ho un campanello).

A brainy, stylish study of a composer whose intelligence is still being discovered.

Benjamin Ivry Read the full review on Agora Classica


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