François de Fossa: Cinq Contre Danses
extraites des Opéras de Rossini
et Deux Valses favorites Op. 8

8 pp., $7.95, Presser Order number 494-02884 (PWYS-105)

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fossa-8.jpgThe seven short pieces in this work for solo guitar are arrangements of abstracts from operas by Rossini. However, with the exception of the last piece, these pieces cannot be identified as originating in any of the operas by Rossini. They may have been composed by de Fossa himself, or that he took them from one or more unidentified composers. Compositions by Rossini have been arranged by many guitarist composers. The Barber of Seville has been named ‘the greatest of all operas’ and it is understandable that others have made versions for use at home and the concert stage. Instrumental music exists by Ferdinando Carulli — with piano and for trio of guitar, viola and flute. The only piece in this collection that can be safely identified as coming from a Rossini opera is a duet aria from the first act, third scene of the Barber of Seville, where Figaro explains to Count Almaviva where he has his barber shop and what he can see in the shop window. The original key is G but this instrumental guitar version is in A. The location of the opera is in Spain, and characteristically, Rossini used the guitar as accompaniment to arias in this opera. The dedicatee of this work is most probably Julien Hippolyte Joseph Foulques de Villaret born November 25, 1788 in Valen-ciennes in the north of France. His name occurs in the list of persons who received the Légion d’Honneur, the highest decoration in France. Like de Fossa, he was a military officer.


The group of five contredanses or quadrilles were short ballroom dances that were popular in Paris during the First Empire, from 1804 till 1814. Each piece had a predefined time signature and structure. The dances were introduced later in England, then in Germany, and finally in Vienna around 1840. Over the years, the set of dances has developed from originally five to six but the basis was primarily kept in this order:

Editor's comments:

The melody of the first movement, ‘Pantalon’, is taken from the opera ‘Il Turco in Italia’ by Rossini. The opera was first performed in 1814 in the Scala of Milan. Although it fell flat, it appears to be one of Rossini’s most carefully constructed comic operas. It has some recycled material and it could be that this song ‘Questo vecchio maledetto’ in three flats from Act 2, nr. 14 (bar 117-188) called quintetto was used before. Rossini does not call it ‘Pantalon’ and the name must hence be an invention by François de Fossa.

Giuliani also used the theme in his Rossiniana Op. 121 which appeared about 1821.

The origin of the other movements in de Fossa’s Opus 8 (nrs 2 – 6) remain to be identified.

Jan de Kloe, April 21, 2013.

 Until the beginning of the 1980s, the figure of François de Fossa was mainly known by his relationship with Dionisio Aguado, a relationship that included de Fossa’s collaboration in producing the two Parisian editions of the Aguado Escuela, and the complete translation of one of them into French. The situation changed radically in 1981 with the publication by Editions Orphée of a monograph which not only revealed very interesting and decisive factors in regard to the guitar quintets of Luigi Boccherini, but also included an important biographical study and a checklist of the known compositions of François de Fossa. Several works by de Fossa were published in later years, among which were works for two guitars, trios, quartets, an anthology of selected works for guitar solo published in 1990. De Fossa’s Première Fantaisie, his Op. 5, was part of that anthology. The current edition of it was engraved anew, and completely edited and fingered. This original work of de Fossa’s is, undoubtedly, a superb archetype for his notion of what “music in the modern style” ought to be. The unusual choice of tonality (Bb Major/g minor,) the full exploitation of the polyphonic resources of the guitar, the richness of melodic and harmonic material, all serve to show the composer as a true adept of Haydenesque aesthetics.

François de Fossa was born in Perpignan on August 31st 1775 and died in Paris on June 3rd 1849. He was one of the most influential composers for the guitar, an influence which was reflected in his close personal relationships with many well known guitarists of the early nineteenth century, and in particular, with Dionisio Aguado. It is thanks to de Fossa that the guitar quintets of Luigi Boccherini, perhaps the basis of the repertoire for chamber music with guitar, were preserved and are available to us today.

Front cover illustration is a water color by François de Fossa (1861-1935?), the composer’s grandson.


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Last Modified: 11/20/2012 03:40:45 PM