François-Joseph Gossec was a major musical figure in the late 1700s. His influence didn’t travel far outside of France. Within its boundaries, though, Gossec created a new aesthetic that inspired composers for decades.
Gossec fully embraced the aesthetic of classicism and injected it with some forward-looking innovations. This collection of his Opus 4 symphonies has plenty of examples. They were published in 1759, the year Haydn wrote his first symphony.
Though early, these works seem to have moved past the galant style. Gossec’s ensembles have thick textures. Although strings do all the heavy lifting, Gossec employs horns to great effect.
There are big contrasts in dynamics. There’s more than just the Mannheim Rocket going on here. Decrescendos are used as effectively as crescendos.
Syncopated rhythms and rallentando are two more unusual features (for the time) that Gossec incorporates into his symphonies.
Simon Gaudenz leads the Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss in some spirited performances. The musicians tear through the finales at terrific speeds, bringing these symphonies to some thrilling conclusions. They also dig into the music, making the most of Gossec’s dynamic innovations.
Enjoyable from start to finish.
François-Joseph Gossec: Symphonies, Op. 4
Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss; Simon Gaudenz, conductor
CPO 555 263-2