Biography of

Louis Théodore Gouvy

3 jul 1819 (Goffontaine) - 21 apr 1898 (Leipzig)
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Louis Théodore Gouvy.

Louis Théodore Gouvy (July 3, 1819–April 21, 1898) was a French composer born in Goffontaine, France (now Saarbrücken-Schafbrücke, Germany).



Gouvy was born into a French speaking family in the Alsatian village of Goffontaine, in the Sarre, a region on the France-Prussia border. Because this region fell under Prussian control shortly before his birth, Théodore Gouvy could not attain French citizenship until the age of 32. As a child, he showed no significant talent for music and after a normal preparatory education was sent to Paris in 1836 to study law. While there, he also continued piano lessons and became friendly with Adolphe Adam. This led to further music studies in Paris and Berlin. Unable to pursue music instruction at the Conservatoire de Paris, he took up private courses.

Gouvy was a man of two cultures, divided between France and Germany, from which he drew his inspiration, his characteristics and his force. While to a certain extent he was known and recognized in his lifetime, he fell into obscurity following his death. Gouvy, drawn toward pure instrumental music as opposed to opera, set himself the unenviable task of becoming a French symphonist. It was unenviable because the French, and especially the Parisians, throughout most of the 19th century were opera-mad and not particularly interested in pure instrumental music. It was this disdain for instrumental music in general which led to Gouvy living the last third of his life almost entirely in Germany where he was much appreciated.

During his lifetime, his compositions, and especially his chamber music, were held in high regard and often performed in those countries (Germany, Austria, England, Scandinavia, and Russia) where chamber music mattered. But in France, he never achieved real acclaim. Gouvy was universally acknowledged for being a master of form and for his deft sense of instrumental timbre. Mendelssohn and Schumann were his models and his music developed along the lines one might have expected of those men had they lived longer. Virtually all of his works show that he was a gifted melodist whose music is a joy to hear.

That he and his music were held in high regard but nonetheless failed to achieve great fame is surely in part because he was a man of some means who was not forced to earn his living from music. There has always been a bias against those who had the freedom to live for their art but did not need to live by it. Musicians of the first rank such as Johannes Brahms, Carl Reinecke, and Joseph Joachim, who were familiar with Gouvy's music, held it in high regard.

Hector Berlioz wrote in the Journal des Débats of April 13, 1851: "[t]hat a musician of the importance of Mr. Gouvy is still not very well-known in Paris, and that so many midges bother the public with their tenacious buzzing, it is enough to confuse and inflame the naive spirits that still believe in the reason and the justice of our musical manners".

Berlioz's favorable reviews, however, changed nothing, and Gouvy remained unknown until the end of the 20th century. It is the recent action undertaken in Lorraine and the rediscovery of his Requiem, with its vigorous Dies iræ, which allowed Gouvy's work to come to light once more in 1994. Requiem has been championed by the Lorraine Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Jacques Houtmann; these artists have issued a compact disc of the piece for the K617 label. Stylistically the composition owes something to Mendelssohn, something to Gounod, and something to Verdi, but remains quietly original despite these influences.

Although his work comprises more than two hundred compositions, including 90 opuses published in his lifetime, it largely remains ignored. In particular, he wrote twenty-four compositions for a full orchestra[1], including nine symphonies, as well as openings and variations. Chamber music comprises a large portion of Gouvy's work and accounts in particular for four sonatas in duet form, five trios, eleven quartets, seven quintets, an enormous piano repertoire — for two and four hands — and for two pianos, several scores for wind instrument ensembles, as well as many melodies and Lieder. We also know of five great dramatic cantatas (Aslega, Œdipe à Colone, Iphigénie en Tauride, Électre, and Polyxène), two operas (Le Cid and Mateo Falcone) as well as some large religious works, including a Requiem, a Stabat Mater, a Messe brève, and the cantata Golgotha.

A list of his works was compiled by François-Joseph Fétis and Pougin.[2]



  • Symphony No. 1 in E major, Op. 9 (1845)[3]
  • Serenade for strings, Op.11
  • Symphony No. 2 in F major, Op. 12 (1848)[3][4]
  • Le Giaour Overture, Op.14
  • Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 20 (1850)[5]
  • Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 25 (1855)[3]
  • Short Symphony, Op.58 (1855)
  • Jeanne d'Arc (concert Overture) (1858)
  • Symphony No. 5 in B major, Op. 30 (1868)[5]
  • Symphony No. 6 in G major, Op. 58, entitled Symphonie brève; variations et rondo pour orchestre[6]
  • Fantaisie symphonique in G minor, op. 69 (1879)[4]
  • Sinfonietta in D major, Op.80[2][7]
  • Symphony No. 7 in G minor, Op. 87[7]
  • Pharaphrases symphoniques, Op.89 (1886)[4]
  • Le Festival Overture
  • 4 Pieces for String Orchestra
  • Swedish Dance (from tirée de l'Otteto), Op.71
  • Symphony in B minor
  • Tragic March for organ and orchestra
  • Variations for Orchestra on Theme of Scandinavia
  • Fantasie Pastorale for violin and orchestra
  • Hymne et marche triomphale

Chamber Music

  • Piano Trio No.1 Op.8 (1844)
  • Piano Trio No.2 Op.18 (1847)
  • String Quartet in E minor (1848)
  • String Quartet in D major (1848)
  • String Quartet in A minor (1848)
  • String Quartet in B major (1855)
  • Piano Trio No.3 Op.19 (1855)
  • String Quartet No.1 Op.16-1 (1857)
  • String Quartet No.2 Op.16-2 (1857)
  • Piano Trio No.4 Op.22 (1858)
  • Decameron, 10 Pieces for cello and piano Op.28 (1860)
  • Piano Trio No.5 Op.33 (1860)
  • Piano Quintet Op.24 (1861)
  • Serenade(Piano Quartet) Op.31 (1865)
  • Duets for violin and piano Op.34
  • Duets for violin and piano, Op.50
  • String Quintet in E minor (1869)
  • String Quintet No.1 in G major Op.55 (1870)
  • String Quintet in B minor (1871)
  • String Quintet in B major (1872)
  • String Quartet No.3 Op.56 No. 1 (1872)
  • String Quartet No.4 Op.56 No. 2 (1873)
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano Op.61 (1873)
  • String Quintet in D minor (1873) (first version)
  • 6 Duets for Cello and Piano (1872-1876)
  • String Quartet No.5 Op.68 (1874)
  • Sonata in G for clarinet and piano Op.67 (1875)
  • Impromptu for Cello and Quartet (1878)
  • String Quintet in D minor, 2nd version (1879)
  • Octet No.1 Op.71 (1879)
  • String Quintet in A minor (1880)
  • Le Nonetto (1883)
  • Octet No.2 in G minor (1884)
  • Sérénade vénitienne in E minor for viola and piano (1875)
  • String Quartet in G minor (1886)
  • Septuor(Septet) inedit dedie a Paul Taffanel (1887)
  • String Quartet in G major (restitution:Pierre Thilloy) (1888)
  • Petite Suite Gauloise Op.90 (1888)


  • 2 Studies for piano Op.1 (1842)
  • 20 Sérénades for piano (1855)
  • Divertissement for 2 pianos
  • Sonata for Piano Op.29
  • Sonata in D minor for piano 4 hands Op.36
  • Sonata in C minor for piano 4 hands Op.49 (1869)
  • Sonata in F major for piano 4 hands Op.51 (1869)
  • Variations on a French Theme for piano 4 hands Op.57
  • 6 Morceaux for piano 4 hands Op.59
  • Fantaisie in G minor for piano 4 hands op. 69 (1879)
  • Scherzo and Aubade for piano 4 hands Op.77
  • Ghribizzi Op.83

Choral Works

  • 12 Choral Works for Men's voices Op.23 (1860)
  • Requiem Op.70 (1874)
  • Stabat Mater Op.65 (1875)
  • La Religieuse (1875)
  • Asléga (1876)
  • La Calvaire (1877)
  • Missa Brevis Op.72 (1882)
  • Spring (Frühlings Erwachen) Op.73 (1878)
  • Oedipus in Colonna Op.75 (1880)
  • Iphigénie en Tauride Op.76 (1883)
  • Elektra Op.85 (1886)
  • Egille Op.86 (1886)
  • Polyxéne Op.88 (1894)
  • Fortunato (1896)
  • Golgotha
  • Le dernier Hymne d'Ossian
  • Didon


  • Le Cid (1853)
  • Mateo Falcone


  • Gondoliera Op.2 (1842)
  • 6 Songs after Moritz Hartmann Op.21 (1857)
  • 20 German Poems Op.26
  • 40 Poèmes de Ronsard Op.37, Op.41, Op.42, Op.44 (1876)
  • Songs and Sonnets by Desportes Op.45 (1867)
  • La pléiade francaise Op.48 (1876)
  • Que dites-vous, que faites-vous, mignonne? (1866)
  • Regrets (1866)


  1. ^ Rosenkranz, A. (1902). Novello's catalogue of orchestral music: a manual of the orchestral literature of all countries at Google Books, New York: Novello, Ewer & Co., page 51. OCLC 13278734.
  2. ^ a b Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians: Ed. by J. A. Fuller Maitland, 1906 edition at Google Books, page 211
  3. ^ a b c published by Richault of Paris in the 1850s
  4. ^ a b c Released on Sterling in early 2010
  5. ^ a b Released on cpo in mid-2009
  6. ^ "Permanent Link for Catalog Entry at University of Michigan of Gouvy Symphony op. 58". Paris: S. Richault. 1880s. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  7. ^ a b published by Kistner in 1886

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Louis Théodore Gouvy. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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