François-Joseph Gossec

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François Joseph Gossec

François-Joseph Gossec (born Vergnies, 17 January 173416 February, 1829) was a South Netherlands composer. He was born in what is now Belgium, but worked in France during his long life. People hardly ever hear his music now except for one very popular piece of dance music called Tambourin. He was famous in France in his time and had a lot of influence on French music.

Life and Work[change | edit source]

Gossec’s family were small farmers. When Gossec was young he worked as a cowherd (someone who looks after cows). He showed a lot of talent and became a choir-boy in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Antwerp.

In 1751 he went to Paris. The composer Jean-Philippe Rameau was very impressed by him and got him jobs playing the violin and double bass in his private orchestra. He heard a lot of music by German composers and started to write music of his own. His symphony in D was one of the first works in France to use clarinets which had only just been invented. He composed many operas as well as instrumental works.

In 1762 Gossec became the conductor of a private theatre of the Prince of Condé at Chantilly. A lot of German and Bohemian wind players at that time went to Paris, and Gossec gave them jobs in his orchestra.

Gossec wrote a lot of music for the French Revolution. When the Paris Conservatoire was opened in 1795 he became a teacher of composition there.

Gossec composed lots of different kinds of music. His music for instruments was very successful. He wrote operas which suited the taste of French people at the time, but he did not have a good sense of drama and the words of his operas were uninteresting. He was an important man in the history of music because he organized a lot of musical events in Paris. He was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honour. A lot of composers went to his funeral.