Francois-Joseph Gossec led a long and interesting (but no doubt difficult at times) life and his music is beginning to emerge from the shadows. This K617 2-CD set features a live performance of what has become known as his "Grande Messe de Morts", recorded in 2002.
Gossec was born in 1734 and died in 1829. He composed prolifically, mainly instrumental works, and his career took off in about 1751 when he went to Paris with a letter of introduction to Rameau. Rameau found him a place in an orchestra conducted by Johann Stamitz, and Gossec wrote loads of symphonies in the 3-movement style of that time. Later, in 1762, Gossec entered, not altogether successfully, the service of the Prince of Conde (one of the Bourbons) in order to write and produce opera.
In the 1770s, Gossec founded his own orchestra, the Concert des Amateurs, and led the Concert Spirituel. By 1780, Gossec was the Director of the Opera in Paris. Gossec survived and thrived come the Revolution, composing many works, including a Te Deum, for the new regime. Then he slowed down with age and was discreetly shuffled off into retirement after the French monarchy was restored.
Presented here by Jean-Claude Malgoire, the recording under inspection features La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy and the Choeur de Chambre de Namur in a lovely, somewhat expansive, performance on period instruments. The live recording sounds very well and there are just a few discreet coughs and noises. Gossec straddled the very end of the Baroque period, lived right through the Classical era, and was an influence on Berlioz (and, probably, Cherubini). K617 CDs are well-presented, and this set has good notes (not always the case with this particular label).