Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893)

Episodes

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01An Artist's Destiny20180611

Donald Macleod explores Charles Gounod's Symphony No 1 in D.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores Charles Gounod's student years in Italy and the sacred and symphonic music these formative years later informed, including his Symphony No.1 in D.

The importance of Charles Gounod was readily acknowledged by the generations who succeeded him. A prolific composer, his contribution to song repertoire led Ravel to call him the "founder of the French melodie". Bizet, Massenet and Saint-Saens all took inspiration from his operas, while the body of religious music he produced is so substantial, it has yet to be properly assessed. Given his standing among peers it's perhaps unfair that his reputation faded so quickly after his death in 1893. In more recent times his reputation has recovered but still, rather unfairly, rests on a handful of works. This week, therefore, presents a rare chance to delve into the surprising breadth of Gounod's musical preoccupations.

Born in 1818 into an artistic family, Gounod found success early on in 1839 as a winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome competition. The years he spent in Rome as a consequence led to a life-long love affair with Italy. As a young man he considered taking holy orders, but his desire for success as a theatre composer won out in the end. While he continued to write music for the church, he went on to complete twelve operas, among them "Faust", "Mireille", hugely popular in its day, and "Romeo et Juliette".

Today Donald Macleod follows Gounod's progress from the Conservatoire in Paris to Rome, where he took up a Prix de Rome bursary. There he fell in love with the sound of plainchant in the Sistine Chapel and encountered the instrumental music of the German masters through an acquaintanceship with Fanny Hensel.

Ah! Je veux vivre (Romeo et Juliette)
Joan Sutherland, soprano
Orchestra of Royal Opera House
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, conductor

Le rossignol
Ann Murray, mezzo soprano
Graham Johnson, piano

Miserere mei Deus for solo quartet, semi-chorus choir and organ ad lib
The Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Geoffrey Webber, director

Symphony no 1 in D
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Oleg Caetani, conductor.

02Mystic Or Minstrel20180612

Donald Macleod traces how Charles Gounod's first opera, Sapho, was created.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod considers the reasons behind Charles Gounod's bid to become a theatrical composer and how his first opera "Sapho" was created.

The importance of Charles Gounod was readily acknowledged by the generations who succeeded him. A prolific composer, his contribution to song repertoire led Ravel to call him the "founder of the French melodie". Bizet, Massenet and Saint-Saens all took inspiration from his operas, while the body of religious music he produced is so substantial, it has yet to be properly assessed. Given his standing among peers it's perhaps unfair that his reputation faded so quickly after his death in 1893. In more recent times his reputation has recovered but still, rather unfairly, rests on a handful of works. This week, therefore, presents a rare chance to delve into the surprising breadth of Gounod's musical preoccupations.

Born in 1818 into an artistic family, Gounod found success early on in 1839 as a winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome competition. The years he spent in Rome as a consequence led to a life-long love affair with Italy. As a young man he considered taking holy orders, but his desire for success as a theatre composer won out in the end. While he continued to write music for the church, he went on to complete twelve operas, among them "Faust", "Mireille", hugely popular in its day, and "Romeo et Juliette".

After three happy years spent in Italy and Vienna, in 1843 Charles Gounod returned home to Paris. Initially he took up a position writing music for a church but it wasn't long before the lure of the stage proved irresistible.

Venise
Felicity Lott, soprano
Graham Johnson, piano

Kyrie from St Cecilia Mass
Czech Chorus, Prague
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Igor Markevitch, conductor

Symphony no. 2 in E flat major (1st movement)
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Oleg Caetani, conductor

Sapho
Finale to Act 1
Katherine Ciesinski, mezzo soprano, Sapho
Alain Meunier, baritone, Alcée
Frédèric Vassar, bass, Pythéas
Eliane Lublin, mezzo soprano, Glycère
Alain Vanzo, tenor, Phaeon
Nouvel Orchestre Philarmonique
Radio France Chorus
Sylvain Cambreling, conductor

Tobie (excerpt)
Delphine Haidan, mezzo soprano, Anne
Fernand Bernadi, bass, Old Tobias
Chorus and Orchestra of Paris-Sorbonne
Jacques Grimbert, conductor.

03A Pact With The Devil20180613

Donald Macleod explores how Gounod created one of his biggest hits, Faust.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod charts the struggles and frustrations Gounod overcame to create one of his biggest hits, "Faust".

The importance of Charles Gounod was readily acknowledged by the generations who succeeded him. A prolific composer, his contribution to song repertoire led Ravel to call him the "father of the French melodie". Bizet, Massenet and Saint-Saens all took inspiration from his operas, while the body of religious music he produced is so substantial, it has yet to be properly assessed. Given his standing among peers it's perhaps unfair that his reputation faded so quickly after his death in 1893. In more recent times his reputation has recovered but still, unfairly, rests on a handful of works. This week, therefore, presents a rare chance to delve into the surprising breadth of Gounod's musical preoccupations.

Born in 1818 into an artistic family, Gounod found success early on in 1839 as a winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome competition. The years he spent in Rome as a consequence led to a life-long love affair with Italy. As a young man he considered taking holy orders, but his desire for success as a theatre composer won out in the end. While he continued to write music for the church, he went on to complete twelve operas, among them "Faust", "Mireille", hugely popular in its day, and "Romeo et Juliette".

Gounod's first opera may have opened at the prestigious Paris Opera, but his pathway to a theatrical hit was far from guaranteed. His second opera, which had the grisly title, the Bleeding Nun, vanishised without a trace. Meanwhile Gounod met with the formidable force of his old piano teacher's wife. A change in his domestic life was soon on the cards.

Ave Maria
Ann Murray, mezzo soprano
Graham Johnson, piano

La Nonne sanglante, Act 3 (excerpt)
Yoonki Baek, tenor, Rodolphe
Eva Schneidereit, la Nonne sanglante
Chorus and Extra Chorus of Osnabrück Theatre
Osnabrücker Symphony Orchestra
Herman Bäumer, director
Symphony No. 2 in E flat (2nd movement)
Larghetto (non troppo)
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Oleg Caetani, conductor

Faust, Act 1 (excerpt)
Jerry Hadley, tenor, Faust
Samuel Ramey, bass-baritone, Méphistophélès
Philippe Fourcade, baritone, Wagner
Chorus and Orchestra of Welsh National Opera
Carlo Rizzi, conductor

Faust (Act 2) (excerpt)
Cecilia Gasdia, soprano, Marguérite
Jerry Hadley, tenor, Faust
Samuel Ramey, bass-baritone, Méphistophélès
Orchestra of WNO
Carlo Rizzi, conductor.

04Success At Last20180614

Donald Macleod dips into Gounod's comic opera, La Colombe, and Romeo et Juliette.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod dips into Gounod's comic opera La Colombe and his biggest theatrical hit Romeo et Juliette and encounters the redoubtable Mrs. Georgina Weldon.

The importance of Charles Gounod was readily acknowledged by the generations who succeeded him. A prolific composer, his contribution to song repertoire led Ravel to call him the "father of the French melodie". Bizet, Massenet and Saint-Saens all took inspiration from his operas, while the body of religious music he produced is so substantial, it has yet to be properly assessed. Given his standing among peers it's perhaps unfair that his reputation faded so quickly after his death in 1893. In more recent times his reputation has recovered but still, unfairly, rests on a handful of works. This week, therefore, presents a rare chance to delve into the surprising breadth of Gounod's musical preoccupations.

Born in 1818 into an artistic family, Gounod found success early on in 1839 as a winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome competition. The years he spent in Rome as a consequence led to a life-long love affair with Italy. As a young man he considered taking holy orders, but his desire for success as a theatre composer won out in the end. While he continued to write music for the church, he went on to complete twelve operas, among them "Faust", "Mireille", hugely popular in its day, and "Romeo et Juliette".

In today's episode Donald Macleod looks at Gounod's activities over what turned into a very difficult decade. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war led Gounod to relocate himself and his family to England. It wasn't long before trouble was brewing across the channel too.

La Colombe; Entr'acte (Act 2)
Hallé
Sir Mark Elder, conductor

La Colombe, (Act 2 excerpt)
Javier Camarena, tenor, Horace
Michèle Losier, mezzo soprano, Mazet
Halle
Sir Mark Elder, conductor

Mireille (Act 4 excerpt)
Air de la Crau: Voici la vaste plaine
Mirella Freni, soprano, Mireille
Orchestra du Capitole de Toulouse
Michel Plasson, conductor

Romeo et Juliette (Act 2 excerpt)
The Balcony Scene
Placido Domingo, tenor, Romeo
Ruth Ann Swenson, soprano, Juliette
Sarah Walker, mezzo soprano, Gertrude
Kurt Ollmann, baritone, Mercutio
Erick Freulon, baritone, Gregorio
Chorus of the Bavarian Radio
Munich Radio Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, conductor.

05The Elder Statesman20180615

Donald Macleod explores Gounod's late operas, Polyeucte and Cinq-Mars.

Series exploring the life and works of a succession of composers

Donald Macleod explores some of Gounod's later stage works, Polyeucte, an opera to which he remained deeply attached until his death, and Cinq-Mars and considers his contemporaries' view of his music.

The importance of Charles Gounod was readily acknowledged by the generations who succeeded him. A prolific composer, his contribution to song repertoire led Ravel to call him the "father of the French melodie". Bizet, Massenet and Saint-Saens all took inspiration from his operas, while the body of religious music he produced is so substantial, it has yet to be properly assessed. Given his standing among peers it's perhaps unfair that his reputation faded so quickly after his death in 1893. In more recent times his reputation has recovered but still, unfairly, rests on a handful of works. This week, therefore, presents a rare chance to delve into the surprising breadth of Gounod's musical preoccupations.

Born in 1818 into an artistic family, Gounod found success early on in 1839 as a winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome competition. The years he spent in Rome as a consequence led to a life-long love affair with Italy. As a young man he considered taking holy orders, but his desire for success as a theatre composer won out in the end. While he continued to write music for the church, he went on to complete twelve operas, among them "Faust", "Mireille", hugely popular in its day, and "Romeo et Juliette".

Rather to the irritation of his younger friend Bizet, in his final years Gounod assumed the role of a kind of elder statesman of French music, giving interviews and opining on any given subject. A devout Catholic, one of the very last pieces of music he wrote was to be a Requiem.

Mors et Vita, Part 2 (excerpt)
Sedenti in Throno
Orféon Donostiarra
Toulouse Capitole Orchestra
Christoph Kuhlmann, organ
Michel Plasson, conductor

Polyeucte, (Act 2, Scene 2)
Nadia Vezzù, soprano, Pauline
Luca Grassi, baritone, Sévère
Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia
Manlio Benzi, conductor

String Quartet in A
The Daniel Quartet

Cinq-Mars (Act 3, excerpt)
Mathias Vidal, tenor, Cinq-Mars
Véronique Gens, soprano, La Princesse Marie
Andrew Foster-Williams, bass-baritone, Father Joseph
Tassis Christoyannis, baritone, De Thou
Bavarian Radio Chorus
Munich Radio Orchestra
Ulf Schirmer, conductor

Requiem
Benedictus
Christophe Einhorn, tenor
Charlotte Müller-Perrier, soprano
Valérie Bonnard, alto
Christian Immler, baritone
Ensemble Vocal and Instrumental de Lausanne,
Michel Corboz, conductor
Marcelo Giannini, organ.