It’s no accident that Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) had a dish named after him, Tournedos Rossini. Rossini, who was of considerable girth, loved to eat and loved to entertain. Indeed, having made his fortune young, thanks to the success of works such as Tancredi, L’italiana in Algeri and The Barber of Seville, he largely retired from composition before the age of 40 and lived the life of a wealthy man about town (the ‘town’ in question being Paris, for the most part). Easily the most important composer of opera in the first decades of the 19th century, Rossini was able to turn his hand to a whole range of genres, from opera seria (Semiramide) to opera buffa (The Barber of Seville) to tragédie lyrique (Le siège de Corinthe) to French Grand Opera (William Tell). One of his signature ‘tricks’ is the so-called ‘Rossini crescendo’, whereby a musical phrase is atomised and repeated over and over, gradually becoming more densely orchestrated with each repeat and, most importantly, louder and louder. It’s a simple device but a very effective one. The overture to The Barber of Seville contains several examples. As for Tournedos Rossini, it’s basically a heart attack on a plate: a filet mignon fried in butter, topped with foie gras (also briefly fried), garnished with black truffle and topped with Madeira demi-glace.
© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra