Thťodore Gouvy

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Wind Octet in E flat Major, Op.71

For Flute, Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Horns & 2 Bassoons

Gouvy did not turn to writing chamber music for winds until relatively late in his life. Gouvyís Octet for Winds in E flat Major, Op.71 was completed in 1879. It was the first of three he would write, the others remained unpublished. It is a serenade in the sense that Mozartís Divertimenti for Winds were. It opens with a substantial Larghetto introduction and a lovely theme introduced by the first bassoon. It is leisurely but not slow, The main part of the movement Allegro moderato is playful but not very much faster than the Larghetto until the middle section when things speed up. The second movement, Allegro, is subtitled Danse suedoise, a rustic Swiss dance, dominated by its rhythm, one can almost hear the peasants stomping it out. Next comes a dreant, lazy Romance, conjuring images of laying on a river bank on a hot day. The finale, a Haydnesque Rondo is buoyant and full of forward motion,


Thťodore 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.


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