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Ave Maria

About the Composer

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Charles Gounod

One of the most important French composers of the Second Empire, who in his twelve operas, masses, and other liturgical works, oratorios, songs, and instrumental music consciously composed his music in a French style.

1818Born in Paris on June 17, to a painter father and pianist mother. Studies with Anton Reicha.
from 1836Studies as the Conservatoire de Paris (including with Halévy, Le Sueur, Paer); in 1839 he wins the Prix de Rome.
1840–42Years of study in Rome. He mainly composes liturgical music.
1843Organist and music director at the Église des Missions étrangères in Paris.
1851Premiere of “Sapho,” his first commission from the Paris Opéra thanks to the influence of mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot.
1852Conductor of the Orphéon Choral Society in Paris.
1854Performance of “La nonne sanglante” (“The Bloody Nun”) to a libretto by Scribe and Delavigne, with only middling success.
1855“Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile,” one of his masterworks.
1855/56Symphonies No. 1 in D major and No. 2 in E-flat major, which prepare the way for the French symphonic tradition after the 1870s.
1859Breakthrough with the premiere of his opera “Faust,” after Goethe, making him one of France’s most famous opera composers. It establishes the new opera genre of drame lyrique. Composition of the “Ave Maria, mélodie religieuse adaptée au 1er prélude de J. S. Bach.”
1864Premiere of “Mireille” (set in the rural milieu of French Provence) and in 1867 of “Roméo et Juliette” (foregoes tableaus; private intrigue) at the Théâtre-Lyrique.
1870–74Because of the Franco-Prussian War he lives in London.
1881After the premiere of “Le tribut de Zamora” he composes no more operas, primarily only religious works, including twelve masses and the choral work “La Rédemption” (1882).
1893Death in Saint-Cloud near Paris on October 18.

© 2003, 2010 Philipp Reclam jun. GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart

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