I There were a great many composers working in the mid to late 18th century musical world beyond the familiar ones we know like Mozart and Joseph Haydn. Composers such as Dittersdorf, Michael Haydn, Kraus, Vanhal and Carl Stamitz, nearly forgotten for about 200 years, have seen their music come back into the concert halls of the world. While on the whole these composers are not likely to come up to the level of Mozart or Haydn, a select few have been found to be exceptionally creative and original, with individual works that can proudly stand close comparison with works by the great masters. One such composer produced music that had imaginative instrumentations, melodies rich with ideas, contrapuntal sophistication and notable structural unity. Many contemporaries ranked him with Mozart and Haydn as masters of music. However, his music alone fell into obscurity after the year 1800. Such a composer is Antonio Rosetti.

Rosetti, Rösler, Rössler, Rossetti, Rozetti, Antonio, Anton
* well 1750 in Leitmeritz (Litomeríce, Northbohemia, † 30. Juni 1792 in Ludwigslust (Mecklenburg), Komponist.

Rosetti was a Bohemian composer and noted double bass player. The precise date and location of his birth remain uncertain to this day. At his death in 1792, the death register in Ludwigslust recorded that his age was 42, which would therefore put his birth in the year 1750. There were several other people with similar names in around this point in time (Franciscus Xaverius Antonius Rössler and an Antonius RösIer, to name two) who were constantly confused with this composer, leading to many mix-ups in regard to background facts. Other questions have arisen as well; for example, when documenting his marriage in 1777, the Wallerstein parish records identified him as a court musician from Leitmeritz, Bohemia, but the parish registers there do not record a birth of an Anton RösIer in 1750. At some point before 1773, Rosetti adopted the Italian form of his name, and he thereafter consistently referred to himself as Antonio Rosetti. As noted before, the existence of several musicians at this time who shared one or the other of the composer's surnames has led to considerable confusion in the identification of his music.

Originally intending to become a priest, Rosetti received his early education and musical training from the Jesuits in Bohemia. Research shows that at the age of seven Rosetti was entered at the seminary in Prague. Over the years, several writers have confused him with an 'Antonius RösIer’ whose documented education at various Jesuit colleges in and around Prague has been found in various official Catholic documents. This person has finally been shown to be a Georg Antoni Rössler, who was born in Eger (now Cheb), Bohemia, on 3 October 1745. In the end, Antonio Rosetti was never ordained a priest.

After the abolishment of the Jesuit order in Bohemia, Rosetti moved from Bohemia and in September 1773 he joined the Hofkapelle of Kraft Ernst, Prince (Fürst) von Oettingen-Wallerstein (1748-1802), near Augsburg. He began as a liveried servant and double bass player in the small orchestra. By July 1774 he received a promotion to the official position of Hofmusikus. Rosetti had already composed some chamber and church music before leaving Bohemia, and during his early years with the orchestra at Wallerstein he contributed a number of compositions to the court repertory. With the death of Kraft Ernst's wife, Maria Theresa (born Princess of Thurn und Taxis), on 9 March 1776, as a result of complications following childbirth, Rosetti quickly set about composing a Requiem for her. This Requiem in E flat major was first performed on 26 March 1776. The court was plunged into a time of mourning, during which no music was allowed (this timeframe lasted about three years), and hence Rosetti, was given permission to travel. By 1780, however, the Prince was ready to return his attention to the court Hofkapelle and by the autumn of that year he had reassembled an orchestra of exceptional talent, including some of the finest wind players of the day. Primarily the excellent horn players like Johann Türrschmidt (1725 - 1800) and his son Carl Türrschmidt (1753 - 1797), Johann Georg Nisle (1731 - 1788) and of course Joseph Nagel (1751 - 1802) and Franz Anton Zwierzina (1751 - 1825), all of whom were engaged by this orchestra at one time or another.

A major turning point in Rosetti's career occurred in 1781, when the Prince granted him a leave of absence to visit Paris. During this five-month stay there, he actively promoted his music, and his works were performed by the best orchestras of the city, including that of the Concert Spirituel (for who Mozart had worked with in 1778), which commissioned several new symphonies from him. Rosetti wrote many letters back to Prince Kraft Ernst reporting on the various Paris orchestras, citing the Concert Spirituel as the best of all of them (“The Concert Spirituel roars and thunders” he wrote his Prince). He composed his Symphony in D, De Chasse (Murray A20) for them. He also used this opportunity to arrange for the publication of his music by various publishing firms such as Sieber and Le Menuet Boyer. It was Sieber who in 1782 published a set of six of his symphonies, op.3, that were dedicated to Prince Kraft Ernst. When Rosetti returned to Wallerstein in May of 1782, his recognition as a composer of note was assured. This trip is considered to have been the greatest triumph of his career.

Fore Rosetti, the 1780s were a period of increased compositional activity. The symphonies, concerti and wind partitas that Rosetti composed between 1782 and 1789 provide clear testimony to the quality of the Wallerstein ensembles, most notably the winds. The remarkable solo and double horn concertos created especially for the Bohemian duo Franz Zwierzina and Joseph Nagel are a highpoint in this regard, along with the 17 standard horn concerti. These horn concerti, all in three movements, are composed in three major keys, these being E, Eb and F, except for one in the rare and distinct key of d minor. Most have Romanze second movements; if not, then an Adagio. The concluding movements nearly always are in 6/8 time tied to the preferred hunting rondo format. As a genre they are probably the best works overall that Rosetti composed, certainly standing all comparisons with Mozart’s better know efforts here.

As well, his music traveled through Europe; his Symphony in Eb (Murray A28) for example wound up in England and on Joseph Haydn’s recommendation was probably included in the first season of Solomon-Haydn concerts in 1791 (along with others). In 1785 Rosetti assumed the duties of Kapellmeister over the entire musical establishment at Wallerstein, succeeding Josef Reicha. One of his first priorities was to make an attempt to improve church music, and in a document of later that year he proposed to make some substantial changes. For whatever reasons though, these did not come about. He did compose an oratorio Der sterbende Jesus (published by Artaria in Vienna in September 1786) that was probably intended to demonstrate his ability to control a large-scale chorus and orchestra.

Though becoming increasingly well known, Rosetti's life at Wallerstein was troubled by financial difficulties and ill health. His debts continued to grow, and in 1789, after numerous monetary problems, he requested to be released from the Prince's service in order to accept a better position of Kapellmeister to Friedrich Franz I (1756-1837), Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the music director there having passed away. Prince Kraft Ernst agreed reluctantly and gave him his release on 9 July 1789. Later that month Rosetti moved to takeover the duties at Ludwigslust (at three times the pay, be it noted). His years at Ludwigslust were hence less frustrating (at least monetarily) than those in Wallerstein. With a generous salary at hand, he was for the first time in his career financially secure, and his advancing reputation as a composer brought him a number of important outside commissions. The Ludwigslust Kapelle (29 musicians) included several talented singers (with a total of 12), and during his years there Rosetti composed a number of large-scale works for soloists, chorus and orchestra. These included a chamber opera, another oratorio and a cantata. His Requiem of 1776 was used (with additions) at a memorial ceremony for Mozart in Prague in 1791. This took place 9 days after his death, utilizing 120 performers totaling some 4000 audience members. In the spring of 1792, Rosetti, who had suffered from poor health most of his life, became seriously ill. He died on 30 June that same year and was buried at Ludwigslust three days later.

Rosetti's early works are written in a pleasing style of no great complexity or originality, but by the early 1780s he began to demonstrate the first signs of a stylistic maturity that was brought to full bloom in the works composed after approximately 1784. These are characterized by a greater reliance on chromatic inflection in melodic lines, a richer harmonic and tonal language, skilful handling of counterpoint and imaginative and colorful orchestration. Throughout Rosetti's output, two distinctive features distinguish his style: an economical treatment of materials, which often results in tight musical structures held together by discernible motivic relationships, and a sure and imaginative employment of wind instruments.

“It is Rosetti…who has improved the concerto form, cut endless ritornellos down to size, appropriately interposed little moments of repose for the solo instrument, combined brilliant display with elegance and set an instructive example in his compositions. In what we call instrumental practice, he has a commendable degree of thoroughness, and puts to shame the Kapellmeister of many a greater court” (from the Musikalische Korrespondenz der Teutschen Philharmonischen Gesellschaft).

Partial Listing of Works (out of approximately 400):

44 Symphonies, 4 keyboard concerti, 6 violin concerti, 1 viola concerto, 12 flute concerti, 7 oboe concerti, 4 clarinet concerti, 5 bassoon concerti, 17 horn concerti, 6 double horn concerti, 5 sinfonia concertantes, 38 partitas/serenades, 12 string quartets11 keyboard sonatas, 13 keyboard trios, 13 masses, 4 requiems, 22 other church works and 82 lieder.