Charles Gounod

Biography taken from "The Oxford Companion to Music" ed. Percy A. Scholes (4th ed. 1941)He inherited music from his mother, who was a fine pianist, worked at the Paris Conservatory, and won the Rome Prize. (Prix de Rome) At Rome he studied church music with particular interest, especially from the sixteenth century.On his return to Paris, he became an organist and studied with a view to the priesthood, which, however, he never entered. His "Solemn Mass" which (or part of which) had its earliest performance in London, in 1851, first brought him the publicity. He was then thirty-four.A few months laters the opera "Sappho" was produced in Paris. The work which was to bring him real fame was of course, "Faust", which appeared eight years later (1859). It shows real stage-skill and flowing melody and these have made it one of the most popular operas ever written. ... When first performed, critics wrote it was far more advanced than his previous compositions, one critic even doubted Gounod's ability to compose it. The critic was challenged to a duel and forced to withdraw his allegation. Other operas were also written ("Romeo and Juliet" is well known), and a symphony or two had an ephemeral career. There were, further, a number of oratorios, many devout songs, and popular pieces such as the "Funeral March of a Marionette" and the "Ave Maria" (i.e. the "Meditation" on Bach's Prelude in C. The oratorios were popular in England where Gound stayed for five years during the Franco-Prussian War, returning to France in 1875.Gounod was one of the few composers appreciated during their lifetime.


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