Charles Gounod: St Cecilia Mass

Gounod was quite the young, thrusting entrepreneur in 1854.

He would have been thirty-six years old and appeared to have been keen to get himself noticed wherever it might be possible. Operas, theatre works, society music, church music, you name it: he was pitching for it. One can’t help but think he might not have been totally out of place selling himself to Lord Sugar in The Apprentice. Despite things being a little hit and miss in his opera affairs, his concert and church work appeared to be paying dividends.

A symphony had been well received and, when he penned his Petite Messe Solonnelle de Sainte-Cécile, it brought him to pretty much all of Paris’s attention. A turning point, as they say. Having never been shy about putting himself forwards, he was now like the cat that had got the cream and it is said to have been his coming of age as a composer.

Perhaps this innate appreciation of his own self-worth came about as a result of having won the famous Prix de Rome composing prize at the first attempt. After all, many great French composers had failed after years of entering the competition.

Recommended Recording

Barbara Hendricks (soprano); Laurence Dale (tenor); Jean-Philippe Lafont (bass); Chorus of Radio France; New Philharmonia Orchestra; Georges Prêtre (conductor); EMI Classics: 7470942.