Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Life of Charles François Gounod
Charles François Gounod
The composer of "Faust" was born in Paris, June 17, 1818. His father had, in 1783, won the second Prix de Rome for painting at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In 1837, the son won the second Prix de Rome for music, and two years later captured the Grand Prix de Rome, by twenty-five votes out of twenty-seven, at the Paris Conservatoire. His instructors there had been Reicha in harmony, Halévy in counterpoint and fugue, and Leseur in composition.
Gounods first works, in Rome and after his return from there, were religious. At one time he even thought of becoming an abbé, and on the title-page of one of his published works he is called Abbé Charles Gounod. A performance of his "Messe Solenelle" in London evoked so much praise from both English and French critics that the Grand Opéra commissioned him to write an opera. The result was "Sappho," performed April 16, 1851, without success. It was his "Faust" which gave him European fame.
"La Redemption," and "Mors et Vita," Birmingham, England, 1882 and 1885, are his best known religious compositions. They are "sacred trilogies." (Gounod died, Paris, October 17, 1893.
In Dr. Theodore Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians Gounods merits as a composer are summed up as follows: "Gounods compositions are of highly poetic order, more spiritualistic than realistic in his fines lyrico-dramatic moments he is akin to Weber, and his modulation even reminds of Wagner; his instrumentation and orchestration are frequently original and masterly."