Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/623

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GOSS.
611
GOSSEC.

recovery of the Prince of Wales (Feb. 27, 1872). Of his glees, 'There is beauty on the mountain' is a charming specimen of truly graceful composition. In 1833 he published 'An Introduction to Harmony and Thorough-bass,' a second edition of which appeared in 1847, and which has now reached a 13th edition. In 1841 he edited a collection of 'Chants, Ancient and Modern'; and in 18 [App. p.651 "1856"] the 'Church Psalter and Hymnbook,' in conjunction with the Rev. W. Mercer. He also published 'The Organist's Companion,' a series of voluntaries and interludes, besides other works. His music is always melodious and beautifully written for the voices, and is remarkable for a union of solidity and grace, with a certain unaffected native charm which ought to ensure it a long life. [App. p.651 "date of death, May 10, 1880."]

[ W. H. H. ]

GOSSEC (so pronounced), François Joseph, born Jan. 17, 1733, at Vergnies, a village in Belgian Hainault, 5 miles from Beaumont. He was the son of a small farmer whose name is spelt Gossé, Gossez, and Gosset, in the registers of his native place. From early childhood he showed a decided taste for music, and there is a tory that while herding the cows he made himself a fiddle out of a sabot with strings of horse-hair. He was always particularly fond of the violin, and studied it specifically after leaving the cathedral of Antwerp, of which he was a chorister till the age of 15. In 1751 he came to Paris, and was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of Rameau, and to become conductor of the private band which was maintained by the Fermier-général La Popelinière for the express purpose of trying the new works of his protégé and friend the author of 'Castor et Pollux.' It was while conducting these performances, and observing the poverty of French instrumental music, that Gossec conceived the idea of writing real symphonies, a species of composition then unknown: his first was performed in 1754, five years before the date of Haydn's first.[1] It was some time before the public appreciated this new style, but his quartets, published in 1759, became rapidly popular. By this time he was attached to the household of the Prince de Condé, who gave him tho opportunity of making himself known both as composer and conductor. Under this encouragement he entered upon the departments of sacred and dramatic music, and quickly gained a reputation in both. In his 'Messe des Morts,' which made a great sensation when first performed at St. Roch, 1760, he has produced an effect which must have been not only quite new but also very mysterious and religious, by writing the 'Tuba mirum' for two orchestras, the one of wind instruments concealed outside, while the strings of the other, in the church, are playing an accompaniment pianissimo and tremolo in the upper registers. In his oratorio of 'La Nativité'[2] he does the same with a chorus of angels, which is sung by an invisible choir at a distance.

In writing for the stage he was less of an innovator. He produced successively 'Le Faux Lord' (1765), a three-act opera, left unfinished owing to the badness of the libretto; 'Les Pêcheurs' (1766), long and successfully performed; 'Toinon et Toinette' (1767); 'Le double déguisement' (1767), withdrawn after the first representation; 'Sabinus' (1774); 'Alexis et Daphné' produced the same night with 'Philémon et Baucis' (1775); 'La Fête de village,' intermezzo (1778); 'Thesée' (1782), reduced to three acts, with one of Lully's airs retained and re-scored; 'Rosine' (1786); 'L'Offrande à la liberté' (Oct. 2, 1792); and 'Le Triomphe de la République, ou le Camp de Grandpré' (Jan. 27, 1793). In the two last works he introduced the 'Marseillaise,' with slight alterations in the air and harmony, and very telling instrumentation.

The ease with which Gossec obtained the representation of his operas at the Comédie Italienne and the Académie de Musique, proves how great and legitimate an influence he had acquired. He had in fact founded the 'Concert des Amateurs' in 1770, regenerated the 'Concert Spirituel' in 1773, organised the 'École de Chant,' the predecessor of the 'Conservatoire de Musique,' in 1784, and at the time of the Revolution was conductor of the band of the National Guard. He composed many pieces for the patriotic fêtes of that agitated period, among which the 'Hymne à l'Etre suprême' and 'Peuple, réveille-toi,' and the music for the funeral of Mirabeau, in which he introduced the lugubrious sounds of the gong, deserve special mention. On the foundation of the Conservatoire in 1795 Gossec was appointed joint inspector with Cherubini and Méhul, and professor of composition, a post he retained till 1814, Catel being one of his best pupils. He wrote numerous 'solféges,' and an 'Exposition des principes de la Musique' for the classical publications of the Conservatoire. He was a member of the Institut from its foundation (1795), and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (1802). He retired from his professorship in 1815, but until 1823 continued to attend the meetings of the Académie des Beaux Arts, in which he took great interest. He died at Passy, where he had long resided, Feb. 16, 1829.

Gossec's works are both numerous and important, and include, besides the compositions already named, 26 symphonies for full orchestra, one of which, 'La Chasse,' suggested to Méhul his 'Ouverture du jeune Henri'; 3 symphonies for wind; a symphonie-concertante for 11 instruments; overtures; quartets, trios, and other chamber music; masses with full orchestra; a 'Te Deum,' then considered very effective; motets for the 'Concert Spirituel,' including a 'Dixit Dominus' and an 'Exaudiat'; several oratorios, among them 'Saul,' in which he inserted an 'O salutaris' for 3 voices, composed for Rousseau, Lais, and Chéron, during a country walk on Sunday; a set of fine choruses for Racine's 'Athalie '; and finally a 'Dernière Messe des Vivants' (1813), and the ballet héroïque of 'Calisto,' neither of which have ever been en-

  1. The date of Haydn's first Orchestral Symphony, for 2 Violins, Viols, Bass, 2 Oboes and 2 Horns, is 1759; it was published in 1766. (See Pohl's Haydn, i. 196, 283.)
  2. Words by Chabanon de Maugris, who died in 1780.