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GOUNOD: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2

Composer(s):Gounod, Charles-Francois
Artist(s) Gallois, Patrick, Conductor • Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskyla
Period(s) Romantic
Genre Classical Music
Category Orchestral
Catalogue 8.557463
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps
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It is a little known fact that Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 (Naxos 8.553027), now regarded as a minor masterpiece, was closely modelled on his teacher Gounod’s Symphony No. 1, only rediscovered in the 1950s and still unaccountably neglected. Anyone familiar with Bizet’s Symphony will recognize the melodic and rhythmic similarities of the delightfully vivacious outer movements, the wistful slow movements, and the drone-bass effect of the third movements. Gounod’s Symphony No. 2, a more ambitious and elaborate work, particularly in its wind instrumentation, is more in the style of Beethoven or Mendelssohn.

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Review By Andrew Fraser,Limelight Magazine,January 2007

With pupils including Bizet, Faure and Massenet and admirers like Tchaikovsky, Poulenc and Ravel, it is clear that Charles Gounod (1818­1893) knew a thing or two about composition. It is also clear when one listens to these (his only symphonies - both written in 1855) that he was a good student of history. Both are four movement works; both occupy the sound world of the first half of the nineteenth century. In fact, the influence of Beethoven looms large over everything; this is most apparent in the finale of the First Symphony or the opening movement of the Second. Even the most forward looking music here, the Larghetto (non troppo) of the Second Symphony, with its pre-echoes of Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma only does so because both composers are looking back to Beethoven. On top of the basic mix of Beethovenian elements, sprinkle some lively Mendelssohnian string passages and the recipe is complete. It would be easy to dismiss this music as simply derivative, but that would deny its obvious charms. Both symphonies are delightful, light­hearted and beautifully crafted. Patrick Gallois and the Sinfonia Finlandia perform this music in a most apt manner, striking just the right balance between parody and earnestness. The recorded sound is good and despite the temptation to play 'pick the influence' there is much to enjoy here.


Review By Giv Cornfield, Ph.D.,The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics,October 2006

If Bizet's popular Symphony #1 is modelled after Gounod's first, it in turn - at least the second movement - sounds almost like a rewrite of the 2nd movement, also an allegretto - of Beethoven's Seventh. Not to complain, though, all three works are deserving of highest praise, as is Gounod's Symphony No. 2. The Sinfonia Finlandia is a first-rate band, Patrick Gallois an up-and-coming star of the podium, and the acoustics perfect. These are works not frequently recorded - certainly not on domestic labels - and may be the only ones available.


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