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Théodore Gouvy: Sinfonietta – Fantaisie pastorale pour violon et orchestra – La Religieuse – Sérénades pour piano – Le Giaour – Jeanne d’Arc – Le Festival – Quatuor à cordes en la mineur, opus 56 n° 2 – Trio pour violon, violoncelle et piano n° 4 – Quatuor à cordes n° 5 en ut mineur, opus 68
Clémentine Margaine (mezzo-soprano), Tedi Papavrami (violin), Emmanuelle Swiercz (piano), Quatuor Cambini-Paris, Quatuor Parisii, Trio Arcadis, Orchestre national de Lorraine, Jacques Mercier (conductor), Orchestre philharmonique royal de Liège, Christian Arming (conductor)
Recording: La Salle philharmonique, Liège (May 6-11, 2013), l’Arsenal, Metz (July 11-13, 2013), Centre de musique romantique française, Venice (June 1-2, April 13-15 & May 4-5, 2013), La Paroisse luthérienne, Paris (February 25-26, 2013) – 192’
Ediciones Singulares #ES 1014 – Booklet in French and English

‘Gouvy’ was a well-established name in the metalworking industry whose processing empire inside Europe’s Sarre-Lorraine region would at times prove frustrating and enriching. Théodore Gouvy is one of those accomplished composers who is neither fish nor fowl, having teetered within Franco and Germanic boundaries depending upon wars centered strategically within this highly contested area. Hence, the turmoil and explanation that Gouvy emotionally rode both sides of the fence in a restless, musical manner.

Though no childhood prodigy, Théodore Gouvy proved successful under pianistic discipline by Edouard Billard. Exasperated with the notion of ‘virtuosity’ of the times, Gouvy remained steadfast to the notion that compositional aesthetics lie in ‘absolute’ music and not the opposite: he grimaced at operatic genres, rather he was inclined to follow the musical operatives of Baroque influences (i.e. J.S. Bach, Haydn) and leaned affectionately toward Mendelssohn and Schumann. Many critics described his music as ‘Germanic in inspiration’ but with ‘French clarity.’

In all, Théodore Gouvy amassed over 160 different works in his lifetime, was graciously accepted within artistic circles, yet never quite made a hallmark signature inside the Romantic Era crowd and was virtually swept under the rug after World War II. Gouvy’s style is affectionately lyrical, never startling, yet painted with a grounding of serious, academic expression. Although indicative persuasions surface, Théodore Gouvy’s musical formulations engage in a rarified, qualified independence which yields greater purpose for justifiable commendation and dignified exposure in today’s age. Ediciones Singulares continues on its path of excellence with the limited edition and First Volume in the "Portraits” series with works by this uniquely structured composer.

The Sinfonietta begins with the thoughtful, pensive “Adagio-Allegro”, understated, pervasive with ‘Mendelssohnian’ influences. Christian Arming’s violins counterpoint spritely, soon followed by the “Scherzo, Allegro” with flittered impishness. Beethoven’s élan unveils in the “Finale, Allegro” while an overall scrim reveals the grandeur of Ambroise Thomas.

Clémentine Margaine’s anchored low notes breathe liturgical pleasantries, sitting well for the listener in La Religieuse. Sérénades pour piano immediately follow with a ‘fringe’ of Chopin; all musical ‘vignettes’ resound a delightful oasis to the ear.

Several of Gouvy’s ‘Ouvertures’ are represented in this collection: in semi ‘tone poem’ format, Byron’s poetic sense of dynamic, musical conclusion are profoundly interpreted in Le Giaour under Jacques Mercier’s conducting of l’Orchestre national de Lorraine; Jeanne d’Arc concert overture shades in Gounod’s vapid La Nonne sanglante (1854) while Le Festival opens with an ironic depiction, re gathers majestic beauty (6:30) with introduction to a formal horn section that gathers conclusive steam found in von Weber, particularly in his Euryanthe (1823).

Quatuor Cambini-Paris renders thoughtful expression in the Quatuor à cordes en la mineur opus 56, n° 2 even though the music is testy and a bit syrupy in the “Romance.” A radiant energy permeates the score with Trio Arcadis’ conveyance of the Trio pour violon, violoncelle et piano n° 4 with its Schubert-mimicking bantering.

This summarized collection of Gouvy’s works is profound, captivating and invigorating. Since only a limited number of recordings are at hand, anyone seeking to look beyond the predictable boundaries of mid to late 19th century compositions would do well by pursuing this remarkable achievement by a remarkable composer.

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Christie Grimstad




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