Saturday, 20 February 2010


“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” - Confucius

For Song Saturday today, I return to my childhood. I was listening to the radio this morning and they currently have a promotion where they invited listeners to remember the first piece that “hooked” them on classics. Ever since I remember, music was part of our household. Whether the radio, stereo, TV or people actually singing live, music there was. When we moved to Australia, I remember having to live in a country town for a little while. This was quite a big change for us, because we had lived in big cities up until then.

One day, the school organised an outing to the Town Hall, where a full symphony orchestra in one of its country tours was giving a concert. They played several pieces, but the very first one was the one that impressed my young mind the most. It was Rossini at his most exuberant, an overture full of drama and a wonderful showcase of the orchestra’s colours. The piece was the overture to his opera “La Gazza Ladra” (The Thieving Magpie). This is an opera of servant girl accused of stealing her mistress’s jewels, whereas in fact a magpie has purloined them. Just as the poor girl is going to hang for her crime, the real “thief” is discovered and all ends well.

The orchestra begins with a drum roll and a march, which is quickly followed by a glorious Rossini melody that is so juicy and rich, that it is as if you are biting into a ripe plum. There are beautiful solos for woodwinds, Rossini crescendos, excitement and drama. What a marvellous introduction to the classics for an impressionable 10-year-old!

Here is the New Philharmonia Orchestra, with Rossini’s “Thieving Magpie” overture:


  1. I am not familiar with this one. Isn't it great? All the flair and excitement of a Rossini piece. Definitely puts you in mind of The Barber of Seville.

    I have often said to my friends who think opera is awful, that they just need to acquire the taste for it, and Rossini provides a very palatable way of doing that.

  2. Opera Australia has a travelling company bringing their spectacle to regional areas and that is how I saw opera first.
    I learned everything I know about Rossini The Roma Rockstar just this week on FTA TV when the Classical Destinations series showed Rome/Rossini, presented by Simon Callow (not to be confused with Simon Cowell).

  3. Very exciting music, Nicholas! I can imagine how it must have been for you at 10 years of age, especially if performed by a full orchestra.
    I can appreciate your love of classical music now that I know the story of your "initiation".