Finding Rossini - a historical fantasy

Posted on 15th Nov 2022 14:52:42 by Admin

From the desk of Julietta Ragazzina: Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) was a quirky character, who said of himself:

I have only wept three times in my life: the first time when my earliest opera failed, the second time when, with a boating party, a truffled turkey fell into the water, and the third time when I first heard Paganini play,”


But he still managed to surprise the musical world when,130 years after his death and over 150 years after its probable composition, he was responsible for expanding the repertoire for the bassoon with a brand-new concerto.The manuscript of the work was discovered in the late 1990s in a library in Italy by Sergio Azzolini, an Italian bassoonist who published his own edition in 1998.

So, are we sure it’s really by Rossini? Well, not entirely.

The piece is dedicated to the (then) well-known bassoonist Nazareno Gatti and, in the preface to his edition, Azzolini suggests it was probably written for Gatti to play at his final examination. Rossini was teaching at the same music school in Bologna at the time (circa 1840).

The discovery didn’t come as a complete surprise, however, as there had long been a rumour that Rossini had written a concerto for Gatti. It’s even possible that Rossini only sketched out the work and left it to the bassoonist to complete. Either way it’s a great story!

I have my own theory for which, I admit, there is absolutely no evidence but, given what we do know about Rossini, it has to be an appealing one…

[Editor’s note: dates and names have been grossly distorted by the author to make the following even halfway plausible.]

Rossini was, as we know, the musical foodie of his day. He wrote piano works dedicated to his favourite dishes. There is even a story that Wagner visited him one day, only to find the great man constantly popping out of the room every few minutes. When Wagner pressed him for an explanation, Rossini replied that he was busy checking on a roebuck sirloin he was roasting.

* * *

So, imagine this:

Gatti has asked the great composer to create a work for him. Rossini agrees. The bassoonist arrives at his house to take delivery of the manuscript and finds Rossini fully occupied in his kitchen, cooking a new and elaborate dish.

“What are you doing, maestro?” asks Gatti, “That smells divine, by the way, but do have you have my concerto?”

Rossini barely glances up from the truffles he is shaving over a slice of foie gras.

“I’m sorry, Nazareno, but Wagner has asked me to take part in his new festival in Bavaria: Celebrity Meisterchef, so I’m afraid I’ve only managed to sketch it out. But I’m sure you’ll be able to finish it yourself!” He gestures with a spoon.  “You understand?”

Gatti hesitates, but he has heard of Celebrity Meisterchef and can see why the great composer is so anxious to take part.

“If you think so, maestro.”

“Of course, dear boy. Of course! Would you be so good as to pass me that bottle of madeira? Now, if you don’t mind… The timing for these steaks is absolutely critical.”
* * *

We may never know who won Meisterchef that year, but at least we now have a delicious concerto for bassoon and orchestra to savour!

J. R.


(Make sure to whet your appetite and book tickets to hear us play Rossini’s Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra on Saturday 26th November at Hull City Hall, with bassoon soloist Adam MacKenzie.)