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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

There is a lot more to composer Charles Gounod than the opera Faust

By John Terauds on May 26, 2013

gounod

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has spent the first five months of 2013 singing religious music for concert settings: the Brahms German Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. This made me wonder about grand Mass settings that do fit into churches. Pieces such as Charles Gounod’s Messe Solennelle en l’honneur de Sainte Cécile, completed 8 years before Rossini’s.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Born 195 years ago in June, Gounod is best remembered as the composer of the operas Faust and Roméo et Juliette. This devout man also wrote a lot of sacred music, including several large settings of the Mass, cantatas, oratorios and, in the last year of his life in 1893, a Requiem.

He also wrote two symphonies in the mid-1850s and a small handful of gorgeous chamber pieces (some recorded by Toronto’s Ensemble Vivant).

Gounod was hugely popular and loved in this day. Camille Saint-Saëns played the organ and Gabriel Fauré conducted the choir at Gounod’s funeral, at the Madeleine in Paris.

A sunny Sunday is a great excuse to be introduced to a bit of non-operatic Gounod — something like his St Cecilia Mass, which dates from 1855, followed by a bit of chamber music.

This is an excellent recording featuring soprano Barbara Hendricks, tenor Laurence Dale and baritone Jean-Philippe Lafont with the orchestra and choir of Radio France and organist Jean-Louis Gil. The conductor is Georges Prêtre:

To switch to the salon for a moment, here are two madrigals by Gounod based on fairy tales by Jean de La Fontaine — “La cigale et la fourmi” and “Le corbeau et le renard” — sung by tenors Laurence Dale and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, baritone François Le Roux and bass Jean-Philippe Courtis:

And here is a song, “Le soir,” sung by tenor Sébastien Romignon Ercolini, with Yoan Hereau accompanying:

This is one of Gounod’s short Mass settings — Missa Brevis No. 7 — performed by the choir and orchestra “Il Castello” di Rivoli in Italy:

For more reading, there is a not-bad website dedicated to Charles Gounod here, but it’s been nearly a year since the last update.

And, to close, here is Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette, used by Alfred Hitchcock as the opening theme for his 1955-1965 TV series, played here by Canadian Marc-André Hamelin:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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Ludwig Van Toronto

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