Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) grew up in a musical and operatic family; his mother was a singer and his father a horn player. He is the only composer to write multiple masterpieces before reaching 25: Tancredi, L’italiana in Algeri, Il turco in Italia, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Otello, ossia Il moro di Venezia, and La Cenerentola. No other composer could match this precocity – Not Mozart, Donizetti, Bellini, Wagner, Verdi, Puccini, nor Strauss could come close. How to explain Rossini’s incredible start. Growing up in the theater was a big factor, and genius helped.
In 1804, age 12, he wrote six string sonatas in three days.What were you doing at that age? – don’t answer. These sonatas were intended for four stringed instruments: two violins, cello, and double-bass. Rossini wrote of the pieces and their first performance: ”[C]omposed and copied by me in three days and performed in a doggish way by Triossi, the Morini brothers, and the second violin by myself who was, to tell the truth, the least doggish.”
Besides composition, the young Rossini played piano, horn, violin, cello, and sang. Below is the short andante from the Sonata # 2. Its played by a quartet as Rossini intended. Until recently, the six pieces were played in an arrangement for string orchestra. They sound best when performed as their composer wrote them. Note the rich Italianate beauty of this music. Rossini had the right stuff from the get go.