THEODORE GOUVY: Symphony No. 2 in F major Op.12; Pharaphrases symphoniques Op. 89; Fantaisie symphonique – Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen /Thomas Kalb – Sterling

by | Oct 1, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

THEODORE GOUVY:  Symphony No. 2 in F major Op.12;  Pharaphrases symphoniques Op. 89;  Fantaisie symphonique –  Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen /Thomas Kalb – Sterling CDS 1087-2 [Distr. by Qualiton] 71:54 ****:

Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898) was born in Alsace, a region on the border between France and Germany and historically torn between the two countries. The Sarre region was annexed early on, before Gouvy’s birth, more of Alsace becoming Prussian in 1871 – in fact, the region oscillated between France and Germany four times in less than a century.  Although the Gouvys were French-speaking and Gouvy studied law without success in Paris,  he was able to become a French citizen only in his early thirties.  While French in outlook, his musical inspiration was distinctly German, another problem of dichotomy for the composer.

While German music was well-received in Germany and other countries in Northern Europe including England,  symphonies in particular did not go down well in France which had fallen in love with vocal works including opera of all weights.  Gouvy, from a well-heeled family, went his own way, and his music, largely orchestral and instrumental, with some choral found its audience away from France.  He did write a couple of operas including one based on the tale of “Le Cid” in 1853.

Well-known during his lifetime, and highly respected by some major composers such as Brahms, his music fell into neglect until fairly recently, after the Théodore Gouvy Institute instilled interest in it and published more of his work.  Of the ten symphonic works, including seven numbered symphonies, Sterling releases here the Second Symphony dating from 1848, that year of many revolutions, and first performed in Paris the next year.  It has been one of the composer’s most popular works, showing some inspiration from his love of Beethoven.  It is certainly a finely-crafted work.  The first two movements are high-spirited and optimistic; the third is a moving and lyrical slow movement and the last giving the impression he was inspired by his Italian trip in 1844.  Thomas Kalb and his fine Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen give a fine, well-prepared and alert reading, taking the palm in this work as well as the other two on this CD for a clutch of first recordings.  If this symphony isn’t in the same class as Beethoven’s or Mendelssohn’s it thoroughly deserves, I think, rescuing from its long neglect.

The Paraphrases symphoniques date from 1886 and was his last work; in a little over fourteen minutes, the listener is entertained by a theme, twelve variations and a fugue – a finely written piece. The Fantaisie symphonique is the composer’s orchestration of his Fantasy for Two Pianos, dating from 1879, and is in three movements, the last of which concludes this release in splendid high spirits, very well-realised by Kalb and his orchestra.

This co-production between Sterling and SWR (Südwestrundfunk) was recorded over three sessions in 2008; the sound quality is like most German radio recordings, very fine and very well balanced and free of gimmickry.  Those interested in music by lesser-known Romantic composers will be grateful for Sterling’s adding another little gem to its catalogue.

— Peter Joelson

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure