Belgian composer, teacher and musicologist.
His father being a baker, he intended for the same profession when he joined in 1841 the Ghent Conservatory, where he was allowed to study the organ and the piano. Grand Prix of Belgian Rome at 19, he traveled to Italy, Spain, Germany and then settled in Paris where he wrote for the Théâtre-Lyrique.
Deeply attached to his country of origin Belgium, he composed a Flemish cantata for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the reign of Leopold I (1857). Succeeding Ludovic Halévy as music director at the Paris Opera (1867-1870); he was then appointed in 1871 director of the Royal Conservatory of Brussels to replace Fétis and master of the chapel of the King of the Belgians. He received the title of baron in 1907.
An accomplished composer, GEVAERT proved to be a brilliant teacher and lecturer and devoted himself to the study of history and musical theory. The most important part of his work concerns the teaching of music. Among his works are the "New Instrumentation Treaty", an orchestration course, a harmony treaty and a "Vademecum" for organists.
His compositions include, among other works, a dozen comic operas (Quentin Durward, 1858, Le Capitaine Henriot, 1864, libretto by Victorien Sardou), cantatas, harmonizations of Christmas and popular songs.
François-Auguste Gevaert died in Brussels on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1908.
Goudimel was chapel master in Besançon (possession of the Holy Empire) until his departure for Paris where his first songs were published. He met Ronsard with whom he put several sonnets and odes to music and composed four pieces for the musical supplement of Amours (with the participation of Pierre Certon, Clément Janequin and Marc-Antoine de Muret, 1662).
Attracted by the new ideas of the Reformation, he harmonized the 150 psalms of David translated into French and into verse by Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze and entered into contact with Protestant circles.
From 1557 to 1567, Goudimel settled in Metz, a French city recently. He is close to Marshal de Veilleville, military governor of Trois-Évéchés, who protects the Protestants. Around 1560, after having composed a Magnificat with five voices and several masses, he definitively abandoned Catholicism. He must flee persecution and leave Metz for Besançon and then for Lyon, the city where he was massacred in 1572, during the Saint-Barthélemy lyonnaise.
Goudimel left five masses, motets, church songs and songs. His most famous work is still the harmonization of the translation of the Psalms of Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze. Among his secular works, there are sixty-nine songs (including fifteen on texts by Ronsard), an Ode to Michel de l'Hospital and a collection of Odes d'Horace (1555).
© Didier Chagnas
The French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893) is known mainly for his operas, his melodies and his religious work. Raised in a family of music-loving artists, Charles Gounod won the First Prize in Rome in 1839. He lived for three years at the Villa Medici run by Ingres. Studying religious music, he regularly attended the Sistine Chapel. The choirs make a great impression on him. He immerses himself in the art of Palestrina.
In 1843, he became chapel master and organist of the Church of Foreign Missions in Paris. After the revolution of 1848, he abandoned the idea of entering the orders but did not give up either his faith or religious music: his last work was, moreover, a Requiem.
In 1852, he married Anna, one of the four daughters of Pierre-Joseph Zimmerman, who teaches the piano at the Conservatoire de Paris. Attracted by the theater, Gounod composed his first lyrical works without much success (Sapho, 1851. Ulysse, 1852). But his fifth opera, Faust, 1859, won public and critical acclaim. In 1864, the reception given to Mireille after a Provençal poem by Frédéric Mistral was also icy.
Gounod found success with Roméo et Juliette (1867), the peak of his career. A few lyrical works follow: "Jeanne d'Arc", "Polyeuctus". At the end of his life, Charles Gounod only wrote sacred music, including several masses as well as two famous oratorios, Redemption and Mors et Vita. A national funeral was given to him in the Madeleine Church with, according to his wishes, a Mass in Gregorian.
Purity, simplicity, sobriety, by his clear and measured writing, Gounod contributed to the definition of the "French style" of French music of the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, which is also opposed Italian bel canto than Wagnerian romanticism. No doubt his heirs are Georges Bizet, Édouard Lalo, Jules Massenet and Camille Saint-Saëns and the "French" melodists, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.
© Didier Chagnas
Born in Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais), Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911) was not only a remarkable organist, but also a French composer and a talented teacher. He contributed to the constitution of the French organ school, founded the Schola Cantorum in 1894 with Charles Bordes and Vincent d'Indy, and exerted a great influence on the generations of organists of the 20th century.
In 1853, at sixteen, he was appointed organist at the Saint-Joseph church in his hometown. He replaces his father at the rostrum of Saint-Nicolas de Boulogne-Sur-Mer and creates his First Solemn Mass in F major dedicated to his father (1855).
He is the student of Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels (1860). He encouraged him to practice Bach, still little known in France, and shared with him his passion for harmonium.
In 1871, he was appointed holder of the Cavaillé Coll great organ at the Trinity church in Paris. He inaugurates the organ of the Palais du Trocadéro that Cavaillé Coll built for the universal exhibition of 1878. He organized historic concerts there until 1906, while conducting numerous tours around the world (including in the United States and Canada).
In 1896, He succeeded Charles-Marie Vidor as holder of the organ class at the Paris Conservatory of Music. It was Eugène Gigout who succeeded him when he died in 1911.
His vocal pieces are numerous, mainly religious and include many hymns. He often offers compositions with different possibilities depending on the means of the churches (equal voices, three or four voices ...).
Guilmant has dedicated different compositions to religious figures from Pas-de-Calais.:
Ave Verum, for 4-part choir and organ, dedicated to Father E. Van Drival, canon, director of the major seminary of Arras. 1856, op. 7
Third Solemn Mass, in E flat major, 4-voice choir, orchestra or organ, premiered April 12, 1857, op. 11, in Saint-Nicolas de Boulogne-sur-Mer "Respectful tribute to His Grandeur Monseigneur Pierre Louis Parisisi, bishop of Arras, Boulogne and Saint-Omer".
© Didier Chagnas
Georg Friedrich Haendel (1685-1759) composer of German origin, virtuoso of the harpsichord and the organ, was born in Halle (Germany). Naturalized British in 1726, he took the name of Georges Frideric Händel and died in London, paralyzed and blind, at the age of 76.
His father, Lutheran, doctor-barber (surgeon) at the court of the Dukes of Saxony, intended him for a career as a magistrate. His mother, daughter of a pastor, secretly encouraged him in his vocation as a musician. A music-loving prince, having heard the child play the organ in the palace chapel, is said to have intervened to convince the father. The child is authorized to follow the teaching of Zachow, organist of the Notre-Dame de Halle church, which [introduced him to counterpoint and Italian music.
Having became an organist at the Calvinist cathedral in Halle, Handel also practiced composition. His first works performed in Hamburg at the Gänsemarkt, the first and only public opera in Germany (1705) opened the doors of the main courts and capitals of Europe to him. Having chosen the opera, Handel decides to leave for Italy, the homeland of bel canto, and responds to the invitation of Gian Gastonede ’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. The trip lasts three years: Florence, Rome, Naples and ends in Venice in 1709 with the success of Agrippina, his first "Italian" opera.
Handel leaves Venice for Hanover where the Prince Elector offers him the post of chapel master (1710-1712). During a stay in London, he triumphed at the Queen’s theater with "Rinaldo", the first Italian opera premiered in England (1711). As he had done for Italy and Germany, Handel feeds on music from England (Purcell died in 1695). Returning to Hanover, he decided to return to London to settle there (1714). Welcomed by patron Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, he composed operas and works in his new homeland such as "The Ode for Queen Anne's Birthday" and the "Te Deum Jubilate" in English to celebrate the peace of Utrecht of 1713.
After 1710, Handel borrows from the English musical tradition. He composed eleven "Chandos Anthems" for the anglican Church during a stay at the Château de Cannons with the Duke of Chandos (1717-1718). Master of the London Opera, director of the Royal Academy of Music (1720), the composer triumphs over his rivals, imposes his works and his performers. During the last years of his life, Handel, who devoted himself to oratorio and instrumental music, composed a great deal and improvised numerous organ concertos. His health declined, he suffered from attacks of paralysis. Having had a cataract operation, he lost his sight, like J.S. Bach. Händel died in London on April 14, 1759. He rests at Westminster Abbey.
Handel's music borrows from different styles: - counterpoint, oratorio and German Passions, - English religious music - melody and lightness, the beautiful canto of the Italians, - the majesty and range of the "French" steps In his work, Handel uses no less than six languages. He produced more than 600 works, in all genres of the time:
His most famous works today is The Messiah, an oratorio that he composes in just twenty-four days, a masterpiece of the genre; the orchestral suites "Water Music" performed during King George's voyage on the Thames (1717) and Music for the Royal Fireworks.
They are two representative compositions of a kind of solemn music conceived for their outdoor performance, the forerunners of which were the French Jean-Baptiste Lully and Michel-Richard Delalande.
© Didier Chagnas