Louis Théodore Gouvy: Symphony No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 9
Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898)
Symphony No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 9
I. Allegro maestoso 0:00
II. Scherzo: Allegro 10:23
III. Andante con moto 15:25
IV. Finale: Allegro con brio - Moderato assai e maestoso 23:20
Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern
Jacques Mercier, conductor
Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819 – 1898) was a French/German composer. Gouvy was born into a French-speaking family in the village of Goffontaine, in the Sarre, a region on the France-Prussia border (now Saarbrücken-Schafbrücke, Germany). Because this region fell under Prussian control shortly before his birth, Théodore Gouvy could not attain French citizenship until the age of 32. He began piano lessons with a private tutor at the age of eight, and was educated in France—Sarreguemines, then Metz—developing a keen interest in Classical Greek culture and in modern languages—not only German, which he spoke fluently, but English and Italian as well. In 1837 he went to Paris to study law, continuing his piano lessons with a pupil of the pianist and composer Henri Herz (1803–1888) and became friendly with Adolphe Adam. This led to further music studies in Paris and Berlin. Unable to pursue music instruction at the Conservatoire de Paris, he took up private courses. Gouvy was a man of two cultures, divided between France and Germany, from which he drew his inspiration, his characteristics and his force. While to a certain extent he was known and recognized in his lifetime, he fell into obscurity following his death. Gouvy, drawn toward pure instrumental music as opposed to opera, set himself the unenviable task of becoming a French symphonist. It was unenviable because the French, and especially the Parisians, throughout most of the 19th century were opera-mad and not particularly interested in pure instrumental music. It was this disdain for instrumental music in general which led to Gouvy living the last third of his life almost entirely in Germany where he was much appreciated. During his lifetime, his compositions, and especially his chamber music, were held in high regard and often performed in those countries (Germany, Austria, England, Scandinavia, and Russia) where chamber music mattered. But in France, he never achieved real acclaim. Gouvy was universally acknowledged for being a master of form and for his deft sense of instrumental timbre. Mendelssohn and Schumann were his models and his music developed along the lines one might have expected of those men had they lived longer. Virtually all of his works show that he was a gifted melodist whose music is a joy to hear. Musicians of the first rank such as Johannes Brahms, Carl Reinecke, and Joseph Joachim, who were familiar with Gouvy's music, held it in high regard. Berlioz's favorable reviews had little effect, and Gouvy's music continued to be neglected until the end of the 20th century. In 1994, his Requiem, with its vigorous Dies iræ, was revived by the Lorraine Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Jacques Houtmann (who recorded a CD of the work, which appeared the K617 label). Stylistically the composition owes something to Mendelssohn, something to Gounod, and something to Verdi, but remains quietly original despite these influences. Although his work comprises more than two hundred compositions, including 90 opuses published in his lifetime, it largely remains ignored. In particular, he wrote twenty-four compositions for a full orchestra, including nine symphonies, as well as overtures and variations. Chamber music comprises a large portion of Gouvy's work and accounts in particular for four sonatas in duet form, five trios, eleven quartets, seven quintets, an enormous piano repertoire — for two and four hands — and for two pianos, several scores for wind instrument ensembles, as well as many melodies and Lieder. We also know of five great dramatic cantatas (Aslega, Œdipe à Colone, Iphigénie en Tauride, Électre, and Polyxène), two operas (Le Cid and Mateo Falcone) as well as some large religious works, including a Requiem, a Stabat Mater, a Messe brève, and the cantata Golgotha. Gouvy was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1894 on the death of Anton Rubinstein, and to the König-Preussische Akademie in Berlin in 1895. He died in Leipzig on 21 April 1898.
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