Antonio Rosetti

(c. 1750–1792)


Although many details of his early life remain obscured by the shadows of time, it is believed that Rosetti was born Anton Rösler in Litomerice, Bohemia around 1750. Originally intended for the priesthood, he received his early musical training from the Jesuits in Bohemia. In 1773 he left his homeland and in September of that year joined the south German Hofkapelle of Kraft Ernst, Prince von Öttingen-Wallerstein. About this time he adopted the Italian form of his name and thereafter continually referred to himself as Antonio Rosetti. After sixteen years in the prince’s service Rosetti moved to northern Germany to serve as Kapellmeister to the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin where he died on 30 June 1792.

As a court composer, Rosetti created a steady stream of symphonies, concertos, partitas, chamber music, and vocal pieces for the two noble houses he served. The four symphonies included on this recording were all designed for the Wallerstein Hofkapelle. Their scoring for strings (with two violas), flute, two oboes, bassoon, and two horns parallels the instrumentation of the Wallerstein court orchestra in the 1780s. Working with these musicians on a daily basis, Rosetti was able to tailor his compositions to their special talents – capitalizing on their individual as well as ensemble strengths while adroitly shadowing their weaknesses.

Symphony in D major, A12/KI12

1. Allegro moderato
2. Andantino
3. Menuetto: Trio & Moderato
4. Allegretto capriccio

The Symphony in D major was completed at Wallerstein in April 1780, making it the earliest of the works included here. One of Rosetti’s most popular symphonies, this work is preserved today in as many as fifteen manuscript sources including an arrangement as a divertimento. In 1782, Rosetti included it in a set of six symphonies published in Paris by Jean-Georges Sieber and dedicated to the Prince von Öttingen-Wallerstein. In general, this Symphony retains vestiges of Rosetti’s galant compositions of the 1770s. The triple metre and song-like themes of the first movement as well as its conventional deployment of sonata form link this work with an older symphonic tradition. The Andantino variation set found as the slow movement in Sieber’s print and in several manuscript sources is absent from the autograph score. Variation design is not often found in Rosetti’s symphonies; the composer may have added this movement specifically for the Parisian print. The routine minuet that follows includes a passage for solo flute in the trio. The finale is fashioned as a jocular rondo labelled Allegretto capriccio.


The composer may have considered the next two symphonies as companion pieces. They were paired together first in a set of three symphonies issued in January 1785 by Artaria in Vienna and again two years later as J.J. Hummel’s Op. 5 published in Berlin and Amsterdam.

Symphony in G major, A40/KI22

1. Allegro molto
2. Menuetto & Trio: Moderato
3. Andante ma allegretto
4. Finale: Presto non tanto

The Symphony in G major dates from September 1784. Frequent changes, corrections, and modifications in both the score and parts suggest that this work may have been created in haste and under some pressure. The opening movement is one of the composer’s most interesting essays in sonata form. The initial motive of the primary theme is recalled as a building block in each of the principal thematic units, although each time reinterpreted through changes of orchestration, harmony, and counterpoint. Rosetti uses the development section to explore the special expressive potential of the minor mode, as well as introduce a completely new theme highlighted in the remote key of E major. A truncated recapitulation brings the movement to a convincing conclusion. Rosetti does not seem to have been particularly satisfied with this minuet and trio. Extensive changes written into the score indicate that at some point he rethought a significant portion of the minuet, and in the set of parts the composer has pasted over the original trio a substitute taken from an earlier symphony. The Andante, so rich in nuance and expressive details, is an effective showcase for Rosetti’s special lyric talents. A rondo finale provides a fast pace, energetic, and light-hearted conclusion to the Symphony.

Symphony in C major, A9/KI21

1. Vivace non presto
2. Menuetto fresco & Trio
3. Romanze: Andante gracioso
4. Capriccio: Allegro molto

The Symphony in C major opens with an energetic movement structured as a sonata form. One of the most distinguishing features of this Vivace non presto is its creative employment of counterpoint – suggested early in the exposition, but brought to full force in a remarkable development area. After a faithful review of the exposition in the recapitulation Rosetti tacks on a rather surprising coda that explores some astounding five-voice chromatic counterpoint and a brief showcase passage for winds alone before dying away with a pianissimo string pizzicato. As an alternative to the elegant court minuet, in the 1780s Rosetti sometimes employed the designation ‘menuetto fresco’. The present minuet captures some of the rustic charm associated with such a style. In keeping with the al fresco image, the trio is scored for winds alone (Harmonie). The lyric Romanze that follows remains one of Rosetti’s most remarkable creations. Although only about thirty-five years old when he composed this Symphony, the subtlety of expression found in the dynamic shadings, articulations, and phrasing of this movement suggest a composer of considerable stylistic maturity. In keeping with its designation as a Capriccio the final movement is full of surprising turns of phrase, chromatic twists, and pauses.

Symphony in F major, A33/KI24

1. Presto
2. Andante
3. Menuetto & Trio: Fresco ma non troppo allegro
4. Allegro molto

The Symphony in F major, composed at Wallerstein sometime around 1784–85, opens with a triple-metre Presto, which, although in sonata form, projects a decided scherzo-like character. The use of a single motive as the basis for both exposition themes and then again throughout the development provides a tightly woven cohesion somewhat in opposition to the playful profile of the thematic material. The Andante’s spacious and song-like outer sections flank a middle contrasting passage coloured in dark tonalities and beset with fussy and hyperactive rhythms. Although designated Menuetto fresco, the minuet that follows retains much of the character of a courtly dance, momentarily interrupted in the trio by the bucolic colour offered in a solo passage for oboes and bassoon. For the finale Rosetti turns to his favoured concluding structure: a five-part rondo with minore episodes. Although some fire momentarily flares up in the contrasting episodes, this movement remains rather conventional until its surprising conclusion.

Sterling E. Murray (1997)