Charles Gounod (1818-1893)

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01'...the Roar Of The Crowd...'20130225

Donald Macleod introduces works from Gounod's early years.

Known today for little other than the song Ave Maria and the hugely popular opera Faust, Charles-François Gounod nevertheless holds an important place in the pantheon of French composers, not least for his skills as a melodist. Gounod was at least as popular for his religious works as he was for his operas and became a hugely respected figure in his later years. As a young man making his way in the world, Gounod struggled with his vocation, torn between church and theatre. Donald Macleod introduces works from those early years, including some of Gounod's early songs, part of his first stage work and the second of his rarely heard symphonies.

02A Long-held Dream Comes To Fruition20130226

Donald introduces highlights from Gounod's much-loved opera Faust.

In 1855, the 37 year-old's reputation as an opera composer wasn't quite where he'd like it to be, but Gounod was beginning to make a name for himself thanks in particular to a handful of songs, a couple of symphonies, and a large quantity of music for the church.

Gounod finally got the opportunity he'd been waiting for, to turn Goethe's epic poem Faust into an opera and have it staged in Paris. Donald Macleod introduces highlights from this much-loved work together with excerpts from one of a handful of Gounod's sacred pieces still performed today.

03Inspirational Provence20130227

Donald Macleod explains how the landscape of Provence inspired Gounod's opera Mireille.

When Gounod decided to base his latest opera on the epic poem by the Provençal writer Frédéric Mistral, he went to meet the poet and soak up the atmosphere of Mistral's native land. Gounod was so inspired by the beauty and tranquillity of the countryside that he completed most of the opera within a month. He returned to Provence two years later and once again found the stimulus he needed to write his next opera, based on Shakespeare's tragic tale of star-crossed lovers. Donald Macleod introduces highlights from both works, one quickly disappearing from the stage, the other proving to be the only immediate operatic success Gounod would have in his lifetime.

04Exile In England20130228

Donald Macleod presents songs Gounod wrote during his time in exile in London.

During the Franco-Prussian War, Gounod decided to seek refuge in London where he met the formidable soprano Georgina Weldon. They soon forged a firm, if rather unusual, friendship which Gounod would bitterly regret in the years to come. Donald Macleod introduces a selection of songs Gounod wrote during his time in London and a new oratorio written to celebrate the opening of the Royal Albert Hall.

05 LASTFinal Years20130301

Donald Macleod explores Gounod's final years.

In his final years, Gounod turned away from the stage to focus once again on religious music. After the huge success of his oratorio Rédemption at the Birmingham Festival, he was invited to conduct the premiere of another a few years later. The work proved to be equally popular but had to be performed in his absence. Georgina Weldon, who had been his friend and nurse a decade earlier, had turned vindictive foe and threatened to have him arrested should he ever set foot on English soil again. Donald Macleod introduces part of that enormous work, plus two of Gounod's chamber works: the Petite Symphonie for nine wind instruments and the only string quartet of his ever to be published.