Théodore Gouvy: Symphony No. 4; Symphonie brève; Fantaisie symphonique / Jacques Mercier


In all, Louis Théodore Gouvy wrote seven symphonies. With this recent release from cpo of the composer's Symphony No. 4, Op. 25 (1855), the Symphony No. 6, Op. 58 (also known as Symphonie brève; variations et rondo pour orchestre) and the Fantaisie Symphonique, this much needed first cycle of Gouvy's symphonies, from conductor Jacques Mercier and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, is complete. The critical press received previous installments in the series warmly and if you have been following it, you won't need my encouragement to get a hold of this latest installment. If not, however ...

Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898) was a composer of chamber music and symphonies who was working in his native France at a time when only ballet and opera mattered to Paris (which explains the lack of French symphonies coming from the 19th-century). Gouvy looked to connections in Leipzig to have his music performed, and to the symphonic heritage in Germany for his inspiration. Premiered in Leipzig, the success of his Symphony No. 1 gave him notice in France, with praise for it's German formal rigor and French elegance. For a time, both countries claimed him as their own, but after his death, there seemed to be no place for a French composer who wrote German music, and his scores fell into neglect.

What a shame. This is music of astonishingly high quality to be heard here in absolutely first rate performances! From the very opening of the Fourth you can hear influences of Mendelssohn and Schumann in the romantic-classical style, Beethoven in the short thematic motifs and rhythmic energy, and Schubert in the elegance and development of his melodic lines. It was very difficult selecting a excerpt to feature for this recommendation, because it's all so darn good. I did want to provide a complete movement to illustrate Gouvy's mastery in matters of form, so please take a few minutes to enjoy the closing Alla breve of Louis Théodore Gouvy's Fantaisie Symphonique, and remember there's about an hour more of great music from Gouvy on this superb cpo release.