Gossec, François Joseph
GOSSEC, FRANÇOIS JOSEPH
Early symphonist of the classical school (also Gossé); b. Vergnies (Hainaut), France, Jan. 17, 1734; d. Passy, Feb. 16, 1829. Gossec had been a choir boy at the Antwerp cathedral and at age 17 was sent to Paris with an introduction to rameau. Through him he was accepted by a musical patron, Le Riche La Pouplinière, a rich "fermier général" who maintained a private theater and a fine instrumental ensemble. For this "veritable musical laboratory," as it has been called, Gossec composed some of Europe's first symphonies (his early works predate F. J. Haydn's), as well as string quartets and trio sonatas, and also conducted the orchestra. At the patron's death in 1762, Gossec (then 28) embarked on a career of royal then public acclaim. He served princes through the monarchy, conducted the National Guard band during the Revolution, and became a director of the Conservatoire in 1795. He was also associate director of the Opéra, founded Le Concert des amateurs (1770), and helped reorganize Le Concert Spirituel (1773). In 1802 he became a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Despite political upheavals he maintained a prodigious output. His symphonic works were famous for their instrumentation. He introduced horns and clarinets into the opéra orchestra and experimented with multiple groups, in a Mass (1762) and an oratorio, La Nativité.
Bibliography: j. g. prod'homme, François Joseph Gossec (Paris 1949). l. de lalaurencie, La Musique française au XVIII e siècle (Paris 1910). g. chouquet et al., Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom (5th ed. London 1954) 3:720–722. b. brook, d. campbell, and m. cohn, "François-Joseph Gossec" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, v. 7, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 560–563. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996) 324–325. n. slonimsky, ed. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (New York 1992) 651–652. w. thibaut, François-Joseph Gossec: Chantre de la Révolution Française (Brussels 1970).