Rossini crescendo

A musical device that was used extensively in operas by Gioacchino Rossini. Typically used to end the overture and the first act of his operas,  while providing an excitement that would intice the audience to look forward to what was to come. The first use of the Rossini crescendo (or Rossini Rocket) was in his opera La Pietra del Paragone composed in 1812. 

The Rossini crescendo (or Rossini Rocket) was actually several musical devices used together to create a natural crescendo in the music. However, the crescendo is not simply an increased volume of sound, but rather a fairly complex combination of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic devices mixed with a smart use of register dynamics and skillful instrumentation. These are precisely controlled to produce a slowly building intensity or musical frenzy. The characteristics of the Rossini crescendo (or Rossini Rocket) included the following: 

Melodic/Harmonic/Rhythmic devices 
Rossini would typically take a single antecedent-consequent phrase (four, eight, or sixteen measures in length) and repeat the phrase three times. This provided a melodic, harmonic and rhythmic pattern that was repeated. He would then shorten the phrases to two measures  one measure  or even less and repeat those shortened phrases several times. This will, in effect, provide a perception of the music speeding up. The longer phrases followed by the shorter phrases meant that the melodic lines got shorter and quicker. Similarly, the harmonies changed faster as the phrases became shorter adding to the perception of the music speeding up. 

Dynamic devices 
Having the dynamics grow over a sustained period of time throughout the Rossini crescendo (or Rossini Rocket) was not simply adding dynamic marks (i.e. pmp, mf, fff, etc.) to have the ensemble get louder, but it included the judicious adding of instruments, a few at a time. Rossini was quite adept at knowing when to add the next group of instruments or voices to increase the energy of the music in the way that he wanted. As the ensemble got very loud, he would then begin to use the higher registers of the instruments, increasing the intensity even more. As the dynamic level increases, putting instruments in their higher registers (usually on the same notes they previously performed in the next higher octave) resulting in an added brilliance to the sound and an increase in volume.


Last Updated: 2013-05-02 17:35:02