Gounod: Symphonies No 1 & 2 / Gallois, Sinfonia Finlandia

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GOUNOD Symphonies: No. 1 in D. No. 2 in E? • Patrick Gallois, cond; Sinf Finlandia • NAXOS 8.557463 (68:14) Charles Gounod (1818–1893), internationally famous...

GOUNOD Symphonies: No. 1 in D. No. 2 in E? Patrick Gallois, cond; Sinf Finlandia NAXOS 8.557463 (68:14)

Charles Gounod (1818–1893), internationally famous for his grand opera Faust, composed both these symphonies in 1855. By that time, he was an accomplished and well-traveled musician, but not famous, and the symphonies went unperformed and, before the LP era, unrecorded. All the critics I read are unanimous that this is a shame. Though not among the towering masterpieces of the genre, both are perfect within their modest intentions. Among words and terms that fairly describe them are cheerful, polished, attractively scored, deftly organized, melodious, and economical. Now that they are available, listeners seem to like the First (here 29 minutes long) a bit better than the Second (almost 40 minutes), if they show any preference at all.

Gounod’s Symphony No. 1 is most often discussed as the model for the Symphony in C of his 17-year-old student, Georges Bizet. The two works are similar in length, mood, orchestration, and faithfulness to classical models. Furthermore, both remained unknown until modern times. But Gounod as a symphonist sounds like a French Mendelssohn, whereas his student, subsequently world-famous for Carmen, already sounds like himself. However, if the student’s essay deserves greater fame than its model, that is no reason for neglecting the fine work of the older composer.

Conductor and flautist Patrick Gallois recorded these symphonies with the Sinfonia Finlandia of Jyväskylä in May 2004. The performances are alert, disciplined, expressive, and beautifully recorded, making a highly recommendable disc. The leading current competitor is a widely praised Philips disc with Neville Marriner conducting the ASMF Orchestra. That costs more than this Naxos release, but has the bonus of including the ballet music from Faust. One assumes that Marriner either plays the symphonies faster, or skips repeats—possibly both. Finally, one should mention an ASV disc of the Gounod symphonies featuring John Lubbock and the Orchestra of St. John’s, which has its partisans.

FANFARE: Robert McColley

Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 26, 2006

  • UPC: 747313246328

  • Catalog Number: 8557463

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Charles Gounod

  • Conductor: Patrick Gallois

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Sinfonia Finlandia

  • Performer: Gallois, Sinfonia Finlandia