Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) was the most important Italian composer of the first half of the 19th century. Of his three dozen or so operas, Il Barbiere di Seviglia (The Barber of Seville) is probably the best known.
Rossini enjoyed enormous prestige already in his lifetime, both in Paris, where he spent much of his last years, and in his native Italy. However, his rate of composition diminished significantly during his active career, and he wrote his last opera with almost 40 years left to live. After this there followed a tragic period of ill health and mental exhaustion, until in the mid-1850s he broke his long silence. Then suddenly there was another surge of composition, resulting in over 150 piano pieces, songs, small ensembles and the Petite messe solennelle, the finest work of Rossini´s later years. Many of the smaller pieces were first performed at Rossini´s "Samedi soirs", whose participants included most of the great artists and public figures in Paris. Rossini referred to these works as his "Sins of Old Age", and refused to permit their publication. His late piano pieces are a kind of parodies with a unique blend of sophistication and naivety that later had a significant effect on composers like Saint-Saëns and Satie.