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A custom-made silk-lined tooled and gilt-leather box, mounted with an inscribed carte-de-visite photograph of Rossini dated 1861.
Septet manuscript housed in a custom-made silk-lined tooled and gilt-leather box, mounted with an inscribed carte-de-visite photograph of Rossini dated 1861.

Rossini’s Septet: A Leap Day Birthday Gift

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Happy Leap Day! February 29th holds special meaning to me, as my husband is one of the approximately five million people in the world who celebrates his actual birthday every four years on this day. Before I met him, however, the only Leap Day baby that meant much to this music librarian was the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868). Four years ago I published a birthday blog post for Rossini that looked at his manuscript for a recitative from his opera “Moïse” (found in our Moldenhauer Archive). This year, we have a birthday gift for leapling Rossini and all who admire him: the recently acquired manuscript for his Septet for two flutes, clarinet, and string quartet, newly scanned and now available to view and download in full!

First page of music manuscript, titled "La Notte" at the top of the page with Rossini's name written in the top right corner. Flute 1, Flute 2, Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola and Violoncello parts are listed, along with the opening two measures of the work.
Gioachino Rossini, Septet for two flutes, clarinet, and string quartet, 1813?. Music Division.

Rossini is renowned and celebrated for his 39 operas, including his famous “The Barber of Seville.” Our newest Rossini manuscript, however, is written not for the opera stage but for a most unconventional chamber ensemble: two flutes, clarinet, and string quartet; it begins as a sextet until the clarinet makes its entrance in the third section of the piece. Interestingly, the Music Division holds an original Rossini manuscript for another of the composer’s unusually-scored chamber works – his “Opera di sei Sonate,” also digitized on the Library’s website; these “String Sonatas” (or string quartets) are scored for two violins, cello, and double bass (instead of the customary two violins, viola, and cello).

The manuscript for Rossini’s Septet is annotated by Belgian music bibliographer Alfred Wotquenne (1867-1939; best known in the musicological world for cataloging the works of C.P.E. Bach). Preceding Rossini’s score is a note of authentication by Wotquenne in French, which translates:

“The undersigned, Prefect of Studies and Librarian of the Music Conservatory of Brussels [Conservatoire Royal], certifies that the 28 pages attached contain a work by Gioacchino Rossini (manuscript entirely in his hand). This work is divided into three parts: ‘La Notte,’ ‘Preghiera,’ and ‘Caccia.’ Brussels, 7 December 1904. A Wotquenne.”

This annotation, however, is not entirely correct, for the Septet is actually divided into four sections. Wotquenne neglected to identify the second section, “Temporale,” which you will find on image 13 of 64 in the digitized scan. As mentioned earlier, the music is written for a rather unconventional instrumental ensemble and, furthermore, is rarely performed.

And with that, I wish Mr. Rossini a happy 232nd birthday – or should I say, happy 56th?

Comments (4)

  1. Should have posted a bit of one of his works.

    • Hi Carol Ann, thanks for your interest – are you looking for a recording, or another score in particular? Feel free to comment here or connect with our reference team via Ask a Librarian if you have specific questions!

  2. Fantastic summary of this new acquisition. Thanks Cait! Maybe we’ll get a performance someday as part of the Music Division’s concert series.

    • Thanks, Susan – a fun idea, indeed!

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