GOSSCC, François-Joseph, significant South Netherlands composer; b. Vergnies, Jan. 17, 1734; d. Paris, Feb. 16, 1829. He showed musical inclinations at an early age; as a child, he studied at the collegiate church in Walcourt and sang in the chapel of St. Aldegonde in Maubeuge, and then joined the chapel of St. Pierre there, where he studied violin, harpsichord, harmony, and composition with Jean Vanderbelen. In 1742 he became a chorister at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Antwerp; received some instruction with Andre- Joseph Blavier in violin and organ there. In 1751 he went to Paris, where he became a violinist and bass player in the private orch. of La Poupliniere. In addition to writing chamber music, he composed a number of syms. in the style of the Mannheim school. He wrote a fine Missa pro defunctis, which was given at the Jacobean monastery in the rue St. Jacques in 1760. After La Poupliniere’s death in 1762, he became director of the private theater of Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, Prince of Conde, in Chantilly, where he remained until 1770. From about 1766 he also served as ordinaire de la musique to Louis-Franc, ois de Bourbon, Prince of Conti. After several failures, he gained success as a composer for the theater with his opera-comique Les Pecheurs (Comedie-Italienne, Paris, April 23, 1766). Although he continued to compose for the theater until the turn of the century, only his ballets and incidental music won popular favor. In 1769 he organized the Concert des Amateurs, which he developed into one of the most distinguished ensembles of the day. He composed a number of syms. for its orch., and also introduced the music of other composers to Paris. He then was one of the directors of the Concert Spirituel (1773-77). Gossec was also active with the Paris Opera, where he was maitre de musique (1775-89) and sous-director (1780-89). From 1782 to 1784 he likewise was head of the Opera. He served as director of the Ecole Roy ale de Chant from 1784 to 1789. Gossec welcomed the French Revolution, and in 1789 was made co- director (with Sarette) of the Corps de Musique de la Garde Nationale. He composed many works to celebrate Revolutionary events, and in 1793 he brought out an arrangement of the Marseillaise for gargantuan chorus and orch. His devotion to the Revolution earned him the title of “Tyrtee [Tyrtaeus] de la Revolution/7 In 1795 he was made a member of the newly founded Academic des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France. In 1804 he was one of the first individuals made a Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur by Napoleon. He was one of the inspectors and a prof. of composition at the Paris Cons, from its founding in 1795 until it was disbanded by Louis XVIII in 1816.
Gossec’s historic role rests principally upon his creation of a French type of symphonic composition, in which he expanded the resources of instrumentation so as to provide for dynamic contrasts; he experimented with new sonorities in instrumental and choral writing; his string quartets attained a coherence of style and symmetry of form that laid the foundation of French chamber music. In his choral works, Gossec was a bold innovator, presaging in some respects the usages of Berlioz; his Te Deum (1790), written for a Revolutionary festival, is scored for 1,200 singers and 300 wind instruments; in his oratorio La Nativite (1774), he introduced an invisible chorus of angels placed behind the stage; in other works, he separated choral groups in order to produce special antiphonal effects.
Works:DRAMATIC (all 1st perf. in Paris unless other-wise given): Le Perigourdin, intermezzo (June 7, 1761); Le Tonnelier, opera-comique (March 16,1765); Le Faux Lord, operacomique (June 27,1765); Les Pecheurs, opera-comique (April 23, 1766); Toinon et Toinette, opera d’Hyl comique (June 20,1767); Le Double Deguisement, opera-comique (Sept. 28, 1767); Les Agrements as et Sylvie, pastorale (Dec. 10, 1768); Sabinus, tragedie lyrique (Versailles, Dec. 4, 1773); Berthe, opera (Brussels, Jan. 18, 1775; not extant); Alexis et Daphne, pastorale (Sept. 26, 1775); Philemon et Bauds, pastorale (Sept. 26, 1775); Annette et Lubinf
ballet (1778); La Fete de village, intermezzo (May 26,1778); Mirza, ballet (Nov. 18, 1779; rev. 1788); La Fete de Mirza, ballet-pantomime (Feb. 17, 1781); Thesee, tragedie lyrique (March 1, 1782); Electre, incidental music (1782); Nitocris, opera (1783); Le Premier Navigateur, ou Le Pouvoir de Vamour, ballet (July 26, 1785); Athalie, incidental music (Fontainebleau, Nov. 3?, 1785); Rosine, ou L’Eposue abandonnee, opera (July 14,1786); Le Pied de boeuf, divertissement (June 17, 1787); Les Sabots et le cerisier, opera (1803). ORCH.: About 50 syms., other orch. pieces, and Revolutionary works for Wind Band. CHAMBER: 6 trio sonatas (c. 1753); 6 duos for Flutes or Violins (c. 1754); 6 duets for 2 Violins (1765); 6 trios for 2 Violins and Bass with Horns ad libitum (1766); 12 string quartets (2 books, 1769 and 1772). VOCAL: C h o r a l : Missa pro defunctis (1760; publ. as Messe des morts in 1780); 2 oratorios: La Nativite (1774; ed. by D. Townsend, N.Y., 1966) and L’Arche d’alliance (1781; not extant); motets and other sacred works. R e v o l u t i o n a r y W o r k s For V o i c e s : About 40 such pieces, including a Te Deum (1790); Le Chant du 14 juillet (1791); Choeur a la liberte (1792); L’Offrande a la Liberte (1792); Hymne a la liberte (1792); Le Triomphe de la republique, ou Le Camp de Grandpre (1793); Hymne a la liberte (Hymne a la nature) (1793); Hymne a I’humanite (1795); La Nouvelle au camp de l’assassinat…ou Le Cri de vengeance (1799).
P. Hedouin, G.: Sa vie et ses ouvrages (Valenciennes, 1852); E. Gregoir, Notice biographique sur F.-J. Gosse dit G., compositeur de musique (Mons, 1878); F. Hellouin, G. et la musique frangaise a la fin du XVIIF siecle (Paris, 1903); L. Dufrane, G.: Sa vie, ses oeuvres (Paris, 1927); F. Tonnard, F.-J. G.: Musicien hennuyer de la Revolution frangaise (Brussels, 1938); B. Brook, La Symphonie franqaise (Paris, 1962); R. Macdonald, F.-J. G. and French Instrumental Music in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century (diss., Univ. of Mich., 1968); W. Thibaut, F.-J. G., Chantre de la Revolution frangaise (Gilly, 1970); R. Mortier and H. Hasquin, eds., Fetes et musiques revolutionnaires: Gretry et G. (Brussels, 1990).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire