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Francois Joseph GOSSEC (1734-1829)
Trois Grandes Symphonies op. VIII (1765): No. 1 in E flat major [18:07]; No. 2 in F major [14:21]; No. 3 in E flat major [14:39]
Sabinus - Suites de ballets (1773) [20:53]
Les Agrémens/Guy Van Waas
rec. Liège, Salle Philharmonique, September 2006, September 2007. DDD
RICERCAR RIC263 [57:58] 

Experience Classicsonline

This is the fourth Ricercar CD in that company's 'Paris au temps du Concert Spirituel' series. The orchestra used throughout is Les Agrémens conducted by Guy Van Waas. This is the second Gossec from Ricercar: the first being RIC 218 with three of the op. 12 symphonies and the clarinet concerto by Gossec's great encourager Johann Stamitz. RIC 234 includes airs and ballet movements from André Modeste Grétry. RIC 242 'Concertos Wallons a Paris' has concertos and Symphonies Concertantes by Gossec, Grétry, Dieudonné-Pascal Pieltain and Antoine Frédéric Gresnick.

Gossec under the influence of Stamitz became a champion of the orchestra. He wrote some twenty symphonies between 1756 and 1765 and grew in stature to become one of the leading Parisian composers. His operatic forays met with little success at the time. 

The present inventive and well proportioned diminutive works by a composer who was a contemporary of Beethoven are firmly grounded in the language of the London symphonies of Haydn and the Mozart of symphonies 36, 40 and 41. There's nothing of the Beethovenian  storm about them unlike for example the symphonies of  Ries or closer to Gossec's home, Méhul. They bask in a gracious Mozartean light and radiate no little Jovian majesty. Often the woodwind sing out in soloistic eloquence. This thirty-strong orchestra has a rude and reedy truthfulness about it and the recording complements it with a close orchestral balance. 

The symphonies are in contrast to the even more expressive Sabinus music with its embracing of Handelian pageantry, romantic melodrama, Haydn-like trumpet solos and fantasy ballet-scenes. In the symphonies one can hear Gossec's respect for his models. In Sabinus he allowed himself the freedom of his own imaginative creativity. It is no wonder that the young Thomas Beecham, exploring the music libraries of Paris, became so enamoured of 18th and 19th century French composers such as Gossec and Méhul. The Tambourin (tr. 17) begins to trace a lineage forward to Bizet in his Arlésienne music. Such exotica as pizzicato strings and castanets  - here just a shade arthritic - put in an appearance in the Pas Espagnol (tr. 18). 

The symphonies are given thrummingly lively performances and the slightly coarse immediacy of the instruments adds to the pleasing effect. Surprises and imaginative coups aplenty. 

Rob Barnett 




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