Music Composers

Charles Gounod-Part 9

In 1893 Gounod was engaged upon work with a Requiem. He was going over the score of what he hoped to make his greatest work and describing his purpose to a pupil when he came suddenly upon a particularly effective passage, and, in the excitement of the moment, fell over the score, dead. Like Mozart he had provided his own memorial service. His funeral in Paris indicated the regard of the French state for its men of genius. Preceded by a company of police and followed by cavalry, infantry and artillery - an odd cortege for an emissary of peace - the procession included many of the most famous men of letters, science and art in France. Queen Victoria, always an ardent admirer of Gounod's music, sent a handsome wreath to be placed upon his grave.

The existing photographs of Gounod testify to the fact that he avoided all tendencies to appear like a "genius". His face was said to have been exceptionally mobile and expressive. The portraits of him do not, it is believed, convey a correct idea of his handsome and highly emotional countenance. The peculiar contrast represented in two of his most famous works, Faust and the Messe Solonelle, symbolizes the caprices of his character. At heart he was imbued with mysticism and at times was deeply sensitive to the ritual of the church he loved so well. At other moments it may safely be said that the worldly spirit of Faust and Romeo and Juliet made itself conspicuously present in his character. Gounod was always a gentleman in the sense of being kind and considerate of others. He was lovable and sympathetic, but lacked decisiveness and great personal force. His lack of sophistry was one of the most distinctive traits of his character.

The Etude Magazine November 1912





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