Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/625

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GOULDING & DALMAINE
613
GOUNOD

and in 1866 was followed by Mackinlay. In 67 the plates and copyrights were brought to the hammer. The printed stock sold for little more than waste paper. The plates of all Bishop's operas were melted, and his popular songs and glees are published by anybody who chooses.

[ C. H. P. ]

GOUNOD, Charles François, born in Paris June 17, 1818. He received his early musical education from his mother, a distinguished pianist, and having finished his classical studies at the Lycée St. Louis, and taken his degree as Bachelier-ès-lettres, in 1836 entered the Conservatoire, where he was in Halévy's class for counterpoint, and learned composition from Paër and Lesueur. In 1837 his cantata 'Marie Stuart et Rizzio' obtained the second 'prix de Rome,' which he shared with the pianist Louis Chollet; and in 1839 he won the 'Grand prix' for his cantata 'Fernand.' No artist or literary man can tread the soil of Italy with indifference, and Gounod's residence in Rome exercised an influence on his ardent imagination, of which his whole career bears traces. The years he spent at the Villa Medici as a pensioner of the Académie de France, were chiefly occupied with the study of the music of the old masters, especially Palestrina; and his first important compositions were a mass for 3 equal voices and full orchestra, performed May 1, 1841, at the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi (the unpublished MS. is in the Library of the Paris Conservatoire), and a mass for 3 voices without accompaniment, produced in Vienna in 1843. It was while visiting Austria and Germany on his way back to Paris, that he first heard the compositions of Robert Schumann, of which he knew nothing previously; the effect they must have had on the impressionable mind of the young composer may be imagined. The ideas imbibed in Rome however prevailed, he remained faithful to Palestrina, and on reaching Paris became organist and maître de chapelle of the 'Missions étrangéres.' It was at this period that he attended for two years a course of theology; in 1846 he even became an out-pupil at the 'Séminaire,' and it was generally expected that he would take orders. Fortunately he perceived the mistake in time, and renounced the idea of the priesthood; but these years of theological study had given him a love of reading, and literary attainments of a kind rarely possessed by modern musicians. M. Gounod still delights to quote not only St. Augustine and other Fathers, but passages from the Latin sermons of St. Léon and St. Bernard—indeed he would almost seem to have appropriated the words of the latter, 'ardere et lucere,' as the motto of his life.

How he passed the years 1845–50, he will himself perhaps inform us, if he writes the history of his life, as he is said to intend doing. We may believe that he employed these five years of silence in studying the works of Schumann and Berlioz—the former then almost unknown in France; the latter encountering nothing but opposition and unmerited abuse. With his keen intellect, refined taste, and aptitude for subtle analysis, M. Gounod would have no difficulty in appreciating both the leading characteristics and the defects of these two original composers; he would doubtless next endeavour to discover the best method of creating an individual style for himself, profiting by the study of models so dangerous if followed too closely. It was probably during this time that he wrote his 'Messe solennelle' in G, for solos, chorus, orchestra, and organ, and which gave him his first appearance before the world—strangely enough in London! Four numbers from that work, included by Mr. Hullah in a Concert at S. Martin's Hall, Jan. 15, 1851, formed the text of various articles in the English papers, and especially of one in the 'Athenæum' (Jan. 18) which was reprinted in Paris and elsewhere, and caused much discussion. 'Whatever the ultimate result, here at any rate was a poet and musician of a very high order.'

But the theatre was destined mainly to occupy M. Gounod for many years. His first opera, 'Sapho,' in 3 acts, was given at the Académie April 16, 1851, with Mme. Viardot in the principal part. It contains many passages rich in colour, though scarcely dramatic; the grand scena of Sapho, 'Hero sur la tour,' and the herdsman's air, have alone survived. In writing the numerous choruses for Ponsard's tragedy of 'Ulysse' (1852), M. Gounod again attempted to produce an antique colouring by means of rhythmical effects and modulations of an obsolete character; but the music—though betraying a master hand, was stigmatised as monotonous, and the charming chorus of the 'Servantes infidèles' was the only piece received with real enthusiasm. In 1852 he became conductor of the Orphéon in Paris; and the eight years he was there engaged in teaching choral singing gave him much valuable experience both of the human voice in itself, and of the various effects to be obtained from large bodies of voices. For the Orphéonistes he composed several choruses, and 2 Masses for 4 men's voices; but such works as these were not calculated to satisfy the ambition of so exceptionally gifted an artist. Anxious to try his strength in all branches of music, he wrote several symphonies (one in D, a second in E♭[1]), which were performed with success at the concerts of the 'Association des jeunes Artistes,' but are of no importance. In France however the stage is the sole avenue to fame and fortune, and accordingly his main efforts were made in that direction. The 'Nonne Sanglante' (Oct. 18, 1854) a 5-act opera founded on a weird legend in Lewises 'Monk,' was only given 11 times; although it contains a 2nd act of a high order of merit as music, and a very striking duet—that of the legend. After this second failure at the Académie Gounod was compelled to seek success elsewhere, and accordingly produced 'Le Medécin malgré lui,' an opéra comique arranged by Carré and Barbier from Molière's comedy, at the Théâtre Lyrique (Jan. 15, 1858). The music is refined, but not in the least comic. The most

  1. The second of these was played by the Philharmonic, 1866, and both have been repeatedly heard at Sydenham.