Petite Suite Gauloise, Op.90
For Flute, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Horns & 2 Bassoons
The Petite Suite Gauloise for Wind Nonet by Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898) was composed in 1888 but was not published until after his death when the manuscript was found among his papers. Given that it was composed only three years after Gounod's Petite Symphonie for the same combination of instruments. Gounod's Wind Nonet had been commissioned by Paul Taffanel, the founder of the famous wind ensemble, Societé à des Instruments à Vent. One is left to wonder whether Taffenel has also approached Gouvy asking for a similiar work. The Suite Gauloise consists of four short movements and movement titles reminiscent of the baroque suites. The Suite begins with a slow, somber Introduction of followed by a more a rather determined sounding, dignified Menuet. The second movement, Aubade, is a soft, stately processional. The Ronde de nuit which follows with a horn signal call after which the dance of the night begins. At first a little spooky, it lightens to become a more sprightly affair. The finale, Tambourin, is upbeat, bright and playful.
Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898) was born into a French speaking family in the Alsatian village of Goffontaine which at the time belonged to Prussia. As a child, he showed no significant talent for music and after a normal preparatory education was sent to Paris in 1836 to study law. While there, he also continued piano lessons and became friendly with Adolphe Adam. This led to further music studies in Paris and Berlin. Gouvy, drawn toward pure instrumental music as opposed to opera, set himself the unenviable task of becoming a French symphonist. It was unenviable because the French, and especially the Parisians, throughout most of the 19th century were opera-mad and not particularly interested in pure instrumental music. It was this distain for instrumental music in general which led to Gouvy living the last third of his life almost entirely in Germany where he was much appreciated. During his lifetime, his compositions, and especially his chamber music, were held in high regard and often performed in those countries (Germany, Austria, England, Scandinavia & Russia) where chamber music mattered. But in France, he never achieved real acclaim. Gouvy was universally acknowledged for being a master of form and for his deft sense of instrumental timbre. Mendelssohn and Schumann were his models and his music developed along the lines one might have expected of those men had they lived longer. Virtually all of his works show that he was a gifted melodist whose music is a joy to hear.