Gossec : Grande Messe des morts - Symphonie à 17 parties / Maïte Arruabarrena, Howard Crook, Claude Darbellay, Roberta Invernizzi - Chœur et Orchestre de la Radio Suisse-Italienne, dir. Diego Fasolis, Wolf-Dieter Hauschild
François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829) is remembered today, if he's remembered at all, as the key figure in the development of the French symphony. But probably his greatest triumph was the monumental Messe des morts, first given in 1760 at the Dominican church in the Rue St-Jacques. The Last Judgement and 'Mors stupebit' are impressive, though elsewhere Gossec's invention can often seem chilly and marmoreal - just what was required from a French Requiem in 1760 - though there are many fine individual movements. If there is no attempt to reproduce Gossec's spatial effects in the 'Tuba mirum', Diego Fasolis and his Swiss-Italian forces give a committed, full-blooded performance, with accomplished work from chorus and soloists. The F major Symphony 'in 17 parts' of 1809 - Gossec's last symphony - is longer on ceremonial bustle and colourful wind scoring (entertainingly cavorting clarinets in the finale) than on truly memorable invention. But the Larghetto has an agreeable pastoral charm and one striking harmonic purple patch, while the C minor minuet surprises with its unremitting contrapuntal severity. Recommended to the adventurous, who will be rewarded by some fascinating and - in the Requiem - loftily imposing music.
© BBC Music Magazine 2001