> Francois-Joseph Gossec - Four Symphonies [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Francois-Joseph GOSSEC (1734-1829)
Four Symphonies
Symphony in C; Brook 85
Symphony No 1 in B flat; Brook 81
Symphony in C Sinfonia periodique a piu strumenti; Brook 87
Symphony in D "La caccia"; Brook 62
Orchestra de Bretagne
Stefan Sanderling
Recorded Rehearsal Hall, Rennes, July 2000
ASV CD DCA 1123 [66.03]


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France's leading instrumental composer in the latter half of the eighteenth century Gossec was throughout his long life he lived to 95 an upholder of Germanic symphonic form. That said, of the many of his symphonies (fifty or so, some written for wind band and composed in the main between 1756 and1778) the Italianate fuses effortlessly with the influential Mannheim school in an idiom it would be hard, if not impossible, to describe as discernibly French.

Ates Orga's notes are exceptionally informative mixing lively biographical flair with musical analysis. His delineation of Gossec's orchestral style is a bravura masterpiece that serves, ironically, to expose the music to analysis it is not entirely equipped to withstand. The works have, in any case, a divertimento-like scale. The Symphony in C; Brook 85 opens with a grand rhetorical movement, not sustained in the remaining two; attractive though they are in themselves they lack the kind of distinction necessary to lift the music beyond the level of the merely decorative or diverting. The flowing Italianate melody over thrummed pizzicato for example in the Larghetto Siciliana of the Symphony No 1 in B flat, or the gallant-style brio of the Allegro of the Symphony in C; Brook 87 are such moments where Gossec's lyrical impulse is allied to expressive devices conducive to symphonic cohesion. Especially imaginative is his thinning to single voices in the Minuetto and Trio of the same symphony and the Mannheim crescendos and drones of that works Presto finale this is by some way the most effective and clever of the symphonies on this disc and one quite worthy to stand beside J C Bach.

Matthias Bamert and the London Mozart Players have recorded some Gossec on Chandos CHAN9661 with no overlap but Sanderling and the small but expressive Orchestre de Bretagne are more than merely affectionate proselytisers in their own right. Recommended particularly for that Symphony in C.

Jonathan Woolf


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