Charles Gounod Symphonies Oleg CaetaniCharles Gounod

Symphonies 1-3

Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Oleg Caetani, conductor

CPO, 2014

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Anyone who listens for the first time to Charles Gounod ’s symphonies will perhaps notice that these pieces reflect the typically French joie de vivre together with the general impression that there are echoes of familiar music and styles.

In fact, this consideration is not incorrect, since the influence of the compositions of the Viennese Classical period, in particular Haydn and Mozart, and of Mendelssohn, is perceived in the Symphony no. 1 in D major. The Symphony was performed for the first time in 1855, limited to only two movements for a certain mistrust of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire for contemporary composers, distrust rather misplaced since the Scherzo created such a sensation that the symphony had eight more performances and that Georges Bizet reduced it for piano and, shortly after, modelled on it his Symphony in C major.

The Symphony no. 2 in E flat major, with the predominant influence of Beethoven, was performed in its entirety for the first time in 1856, but nearly a year before, in the wake of the success of the previous symphony, the Société des jeunes artistes had performed the Larghetto, a movement which, however, has in itself elements that will reappear in Faust or Roméo et Juliette. After the second symphony, Gounod’s interest shifted to the operatic repertoire, but he never abandoned completely the symphonic genre and actually wrote the sketches of a third symphony, of which this album offers the world premiere recording. This third symphony was probably composed in the early Nineties and only an incomplete Andante molto maestoso, Moderato and a complete slow movement remain of it.

The Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Oleg Caetani gives these symphonies the verve and vitality that are their own, but does not fail to emphasize the stormiest movements, as those of the second symphony, creating an interesting contrast with those definitely less demanding of the first. Overall, the symphonies appear closer to music for entertainments, rather than to an intellectual one, and therefore you will listen to it with great pleasure, even if it lacks a certain depth.

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