François-Joseph Gossec, an important composer in the development of the French Symphony - he wrote more than forty - and an influential figure in French musical life, was born, not in France, but at Vergnies in Hainaut on 17 January 1734. After singing as a chorister at Antwerp Cathedral, he moved to Paris and, at the recommendation of Rameau, played in and later led La Pouplinière's private orchestra, where he also met Johann Wenzel Stamitz. He enjoyed a varied career, working in various French musical establishments, and was (from 1773) a co-director of the Concert Spirituel. He used his influential positions to air his own music, and experimented with unusual effects in his orchestral music and in the Messe des morts of 1760. There was also a considerable amount of chamber music and some opera. Mozart met (and was encouraged by) Gossec when he visited Paris in 1778.
In later life, Gossec's teaching and administrative tasks took prominence, and following the defeat of Napoleon and the closure of the Conservatoire in 1816, he had no choice but to retire from his posts there as Inspector of Teaching and Professor of Composition. He died at Passy on 16 February 1829.
CD Spotlight. Immense Joy - Gerald Fenech listens to Beethoven and Gossec symphonies. 'A first-rate project deserving of the most serious of investigations.'
Record box. Buried masterpiece? - Roderic Dunnett is bowled over by Gossec's Requiem