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François-Joseph Gossec
1734 - 1829
France / Belgium
Picture Picture
F.J. Gossec
François-Joseph Gossec (17/01/1734 - 16/02/1829), a composer born at Verniers in what is now Belgium Hainault, but was then French territory. He studied music at Antwerp, Brussles and Liège.
Source:booklet of cd Erato 2292-45284-2
Grande messe des morts
Period:Classicism
Composed in:1760
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Duration:74'
Label(s):Erato 2292-45284-2
K617 152
Gossec composed chamber music and symphonies and had the first six ones published as op. 3 in 1756, before Haydn; but the 25 year-old composer apparently intended to make his breaktrough by a msterpiece of titanic dimensions. It is unknown for what occasion he composed his one and a half-hour requiem, but, in a strange parallel to Count Walsegg-Stuppach, who ordered a requiem for his wife deceased at the age of 20 from Mozart in 1791, it is not unlikely that Louis-Joseph de Bourbon commissioned a funeral mass both for his daughter Marie, who had passed away one year before at the age of four, and his beloved wife, Elisabeth, who had died on March 9, 1760, at the age of 23. Its premiere in May 1760 at the Jacobine church of the Rue St.-Jacques, made him famous overnight. In 1780, Gossec had his requiem published in score by Henry, and among the subscribers there was also the Viennese librarian and collector of ancient music, Baron van Swieten, patron of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. In 1814, Gossec abridged his requiem (this version was performed at the first anniversary of Grétry's death).
It is the merit of the Viennese musicologist Hartmut Krones to have identified Gossec's requiem as a model for Mozart in "Ein Französisches Vorbild für Mozarts Requiem", Österreichische Musikzeitschrift 1/1987. Gossec's requiem is a milestone in the history of music just as J. S. Bach's b minor mass or Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and definitely a must for every academic library.
Gossec divided the latin requiem text into 25 movements. He omitted the "Kyrie" and some strophes of the sequence. The requiem is scored in a very progressive style for the full classical orchestra, but trumpets and trombones play only in the "Tuba Mirum". There, they form together with the clarinets and horns doubling the trumpets (and as reported bassoons presumably doubling the tenor and the bass trombones) a second remote orchestra. The fortissimo entry calling for the Last Judgement was the most remarkable and overwhelming effect noted by the listeners. Some arias are clearly operatic, such as the "Exaudi" or the "Inter Oves" for the soprano, or the "Spera in Deo" for the tenor.
Nevertheless, Gossec showed also his skills in counterpoint by his great choral fugues, the "Et Lux Perpetua" and the "Amen" fugue.
The orchestration is in general early classical with the strings only in most movements; the use of clarinets in 1760 was still new, but the most remarkable progress compared to the baroque period is the orchestral bass part. Although indicated as "Basse continue", there is no figuration for an organ accompaniment. And Gossec's requiem is definitely a symphonic one, profiting from a large orchestra and a choir of corresponding size. It remained for more than 50 years a standard in this genre and still in 1814 it was played for the anniversary of Gretry's funeral. But it is very remarkable that with Napoleon's defeat of 1814/1815, Gossec's revolutionary requiem had been replaced by the royalist opuscule of his former fellow colleague, the turncoat Cherubini, who became the musical busybody of the last Bourbon kings...
It seems that the very extensive composition had not been performed atliest before the first publication in its entirety. The first performance in may 1760 in the Jacobine church in the Rue St. Jacques lacked the offertory. The second performance at the then carmelite church in the Luxembourg quarter had theoffertory, and was definitely a symphonic one not for liturgical purpose. The next realizations took place in may 1763 in the Feullants' church in the Rue St. Honoré, and here again in july 1769. On march 22, 1777 Gossec had it given for the memory of his friend, the violinist Simon Le duc. 1783 records two performances, and 1784 one on December 15 with 200 musicians. The "Dies irae" soon became standard repertory of the Concerts Spirituels already in 1761 and 1762, and again three times in 1773, when Gossec himself had become the director.
Gossec's requiem served as model not only for Mozart, but also for Berlioz, and although not played any more through the romantic period it was still noted for its noble simplicity and perfection. But the first performance in the era of modern musicology took place at a Dutch-Flemish music festival in Berlin in 1911 (!), and two decades later it could be heard at the Würzburg Mozart festival (Germany) in 1932. One can hardly imagine that in Vienna, the musical heart of Europe around 1800, where Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert lived, this famous masterpiece was not performed before 1992 - and even then only the first 18 movements!
Among the extant sources we have used both the original score edition from 1780 and a manuscript score copy preserved at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris. The autograph at the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels dates from Gossec's own revision in 1814 and appears to have been a working copy more than a definite version.

Table of movements:
I. Introduzione (orchestral): Grave, C major, ¢, 69 measures
II. Introitus (choir, orch.): Grave, c minor, ¢, 35 measures
III. Te Decet Hymnus (soprano, alto, choir, orch.): Allegro moderato, E flat maj., ¢, 161 measures
IV. Exaudi (soprano, orch.): Largo, f min., 3/4, 93 measures
V. Requiem Aeternam (choir, orch.): Grave, C maj., ¢, 14 measures
VI. Fuga: Lux Perpetua (choir, orch.): ---, c min., ¢, 159 measures

Sequentia:

VII. Dies Irae (soprano, alto, tenor, basso, orch.): Grave maestoso, g min., ¢, 87 measures
VIII. Tuba Mirum (bariton, cuivres ex dist., orch.): Grave - Allegretto, E flat maj., ¢, 153 measures
IX. Mors Stupebit (choir, orch.): Allegro, C maj., ¢, 159 measures
X. Quid Sum Miser (alto, orch.): Lento, F maj., 4/4, 27 measures
XI. Recordare (soprano, alto, basso, orch.): Largo, f min., ¢, 96 measures
XII. Inter Oves (soprano, orch.): Allegretto, F maj., 3/4, 170 measures
XIIa. (orch.): Grave, C maj., c, 5 measures
XIII. Confutatis (choir, orch.): Allegro molto, g min., c, 131 measures
XIV. Oro Supplex (choir, orch.): Grave, E flat maj., ¢, 16 measures
XV. Lacrimosa (soprano, mezzo-soprano, orch.): --- (Grave), f min., 3/4, 83 measures
XVI. Iudicandus (choir, orch.): Grave, B flat maj., ¢, 17 measures
XVII. Pie Jesu / Amen (fugue) (choir, orch.): Andante, g min., ¢, 40 + 150 measures

Offertorium:

XVIII. Vado Et Non Revertar (recitativo: tenor, orch.): Largo, c min., ¢, 67 measures
XIX. Spera In Deo (tenor, orch.): Largo, E flat maj., 4/4, 102 measures
XX. Cedant Hostes (alto, basso, orch.): Allegro, C maj., 6/4, 172 measures
XXI. Sanctus (choir, orch.): Maestoso, F maj., ¢, 15 measures 212
XXII. Pie Jesu (soprano, alto, tenor, basso/choir, orch.): Largo, F maj., 4/4, 60 measures
XXIII. Agnus Dei (choir, orch.): Moderato, c min., ¢, 33 measures
XXIV. Post Communionem (choir, orch.): Allegretto, C maj., ¢, 175 measures
XXV. Requiem Aeternam - Fuga: Et Lux Perpetua (choir, orch.): Grave, c min. // ---, C maj., c // ¢, 11 + 226 measures
From the late 17th century onwards, mainly through the contributions of leading opera composers such as Feo, Galuppi, Hasse, Pergolesi, Jommelli, Gassmann, Cimarosa and Gossec, individual movements of the requiem became gradually larger, the orchestration richer and the solo vocal writing more elaborate. In some cases, single texts, usually the sequence and the responsory, were set separately, either as independent motets or as a means of providing vivid contrast within chanted forms of the funeral service. A ‘predecessor’ work, in the French tradition, which points beyond Mozart to the early 19th century, is Gossec's Requiem (1760), in which the "Tuba mirum" is startlingly portrayed by two orchestras, one, comprising 23 woodwind and brass instruments, concealed aloft in the church, and the other, of strings, playing pianissimo and tremolando outside the building.
Source:Steven Chang-Lin Yu
Gossec's requiem is large and Romantic in concept, and its dramatic intensity anticipates Mozart's.
Author:James W. Pruett
Source:The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians
Gossec's requiem has been performed at the funerals of Admiral Buix in March 1805, that of André Ernest Modeste Grétry (1741 - 1813), a French composer of Walloon descent, and at the anniversary service for the latter in 1814.
Source:booklet of cd Erato 2292-45284-2
Picture
A.E.M. Grétry
(performed at
his funeral)