Théodore GOUVY (1819-1898)
Symphony No. 2 in F major op. 12 (1848-49) [31:41]
Paraphrases Symphoniques op. 89 (1886) [14:22]
Fantaisie Symphonique (1879) [25:31]
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen/Thomas Kalb
rec. Studio DRR, Württembergische Philharmonie, Germany, 11-12 March 2008,
15 July 2008, 17-18 September 2008. DDD
STERLING CDS-1087-2 [71:56]
Gouvy, a friend of Lalo, Massenet and Saint-Saens, suffered from the polarisation
that racked the relationship between Germany and France in the nineteenth
century and beyond. To the French he was too German and vice versa. His life’s
trajectory took in Lorraine, Paris and Leipzig. There’s plenty to discover
including a Requiem,
an opera Le Cid, lots of chamber music and a sequence of symphonies
into which CPO
is making inroads. His music now benefits from the promotion of the Théodore
Gouvy Institute, of the regional authorities of Alsace-Lorraine and Saarland
and now of Sterling.
The Second Symphony’s first movement is redolent of Schumann in its
melodic material but injected with a Mendelssohnian lightness. This can be
heard in the more dramatic second movement which also carries a flavour of
French opera-ballet. A placidly serene and unhurried Andante precedes a sprightly
storm of a Finale. The latter has a seraphic second subject. This points up
the Mendelssohnian vigour with real grace which not even the conventionality
of the final sign-off gesture can efface.
The Paraphrases Symphoniques - a theme and variations - was
Gouvy's last orchestral work. It has something of Brahms’ geniality and dark
clouds about it as in the St Anthony Variations and the Tragic Overture.
The Fantaisie Symphonique is the orchestral version of the Fantasy
for Two Pianos in G minor. It’s in three movements. There’s a long and very
serious beetling Grave with pre-echoes of Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet about
it. It’s shot through with grand dramatic gestures from the vocabularies of
Schumann and Mendelssohn. This long first movement is rather like a dramatic
Mendelssohn concert overture such as Ruy Blas or The Fair Melusine.
This is followed by a pulse-calming sweet-tempered Adagio. The slightly
longer finale Alla breve steps forward with regal determination - a
touch of the fugal and of the warlike about it. The two movements after the
first are each about half the length of the first.
These are pleasing romantic works which, for the most part, stay within the
glossaries established by Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms. If you enjoy the
unnumbered symphonies of Saint-Saens and the various symphonies by Méhul I
think you will like these very much. These are spirited and engaging readings
of music hitherto lost in the choking dust of the nineteenth century and now
rescued. It’s all done in typical Sterling style.
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