Today's Google doodle is dedicated to the 220th birthday of the famous opera composer, Gioachino Rossini.
Anniversaries are the lifeblood – but also the bane – of classical musicscheduling. A composer's 100th or 200th anniversary is a guarantee of extra performances, which is generally a good thing. But it's a reminder, too, that classical music is still terribly dependent on its past and insufficiently energised by its present. That's why, most of the time, musical anniversaries make my heart sink. I'm already dreading the overkill next year when Wagner and Verdi have their 200th anniversaries and Britten his 100th – even though I revere all three of them mightily.
But there are exceptions to every rule, and today is a good day to make an exception for Rossini. There are two excellent reasons for this inconsistency. The first is that today is 29 February, and Rossini was born on this day in 1792, so today is either his 220th or his 53rd anniversary, according to taste (not his 55th, please note, since there are no leap years in years ending in 00). Rossini has a good claim to be both the most famous and the most distinguished person to have a leap-year birthday – though the fine African-American soprano Reri Grist, one of the best Susannas and Oscars on disc, is another – she is 80 (or 19) today. That means we only get a quarter of the usual chances to celebrate Rossini, so no further excuse is really needed.