Charles Gounod  
Charles Gounod

Charles Gounod in 1859, the year of the premiere of Faust.
Charles Gounod, in full Charles-françois Gounod (born June 17, 1818, Paris, France—died Oct. 18, 1893, Saint-Cloud, near Paris), French composer noted particularly for his operas, of which the most famous is Faust.

Gounod’s father was a painter, and his mother was a capable pianist who gave Gounod his early training in music. He was educated at the Lycée Saint-Louis, where he remained until 1835. After taking his degree in philosophy, he began to study music with the Bohemian composer Anton Reicha. On Reicha’s death Gounod entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied under Fromental Halévy and Jean-François Lesueur. Three years later his cantata Fernand won him the Prix de Rome for music, an award that entailed a three-year stay in Rome at the Villa Medici.

In Italy Gounod devoted a considerable amount of his attention to the works of Giovanni da Palestrina, an Italian Renaissance composer. From Rome he proceeded to Vienna, where a mass and requiem, composed in Italy, were performed in 1842 and 1843. Returning to Paris, he passed through Prague, Dresden, and Berlin and met Felix Mendelssohn in Leipzig.

In Paris, Gounod became organist and choirmaster at the Church of the Missions Étrangères, and for two years he mainly studied theology. In 1846 he entered the seminary of Saint-Sulpice but in 1847 decided against taking holy orders. A requiem and a Te Deum that he had started writing the previous year remained unfinished, and he turned to composing for the operatic stage.

The reception of his earliest operas, Sapho (1851) and La Nonne sanglante (1854; “The Bloody Nun”), was not very enthusiastic, despite favourable reviews by the composer Hector Berlioz. In his Messe de Sainte-Cécile (1855) he attempted to blend the sacred with a more secular style of composition. An excursion into comic opera followed with Le Médecin malgré lui (1858; The Mock Doctor), based on Molière’s comedy. From 1852 Gounod worked on Faust, using a libretto by M. Carré and J. Barbier based on J.W. von Goethe’s tragedy. The production of Faust on March 19, 1859, marked a new phase in the development of French opera. This work has continued to overshadow all of Gounod’s subsequent stage works, including Philémon et Baucis (1860), La Colombe (1860; “The Dove”), the fairly successful Mireille (1864), based on a Provençal poem by Frédéric Mistral, and Roméo et Juliette (1867).

In 1852 Gounod had become conductor of the Orphéon Choral Society in Paris, for which he wrote a number of choral works, including two masses. From 1870 he spent five years in London, formed a choir to which he gave his name (and which later became the Royal Choral Society), and devoted himself almost entirely to the writing of oratorios. Gallia, a lamentation for solo soprano, chorus, and orchestra, inspired by the French military defeat of 1870, was first performed in 1871 and was followed by the oratorios La Rédemption and Mors et Vita (Life and Death) in 1882 and 1885. He was made a grand officier of the Legion of Honour in 1888.

Gounod’s melodic vein is unmistakably original, though often oversentimental. He knew how to write for the voice and was also a skillful orchestrator; but in his operas his sense of musical characterization, though rarely devoid of charm, is often excessively facile, and the religiosity displayed in his sacred music is too often superficial. His Meditation (Ave Maria) superimposed on Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude in C Major (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I) illustrates both his inventiveness and ease as a melodist and his naïveté in matters of style. The operas Faust, Mireille, and Le Médecin malgré lui show his melodic talents at their best.

Frederick Goldbeck

Encyclopædia Britannica

Gounod late in his career.


The French composer Charles Gounod composed a work which for more than half a century was the staple ot every opera house in the world. Although Faust is no longer fashionable, and Gounod's reputation has dwindled to that of a relatively minor figure, his influence during his lifetime was considerable and his craftsmanship and elegance give enduring pleasure.

Born in Paris in 1818, Gounod studied at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1839 he won the coveted Prix de Rome and during the resulting three-year stay in Rome steeped himself in the sixteenth-century choral music sung in the Sistine Chapel. Palestrina was a particular revelation to him, and sacred music was to constitute a large, though now largely forgotten part of Gounod's output. Between 1846 and 1849 Gounod actually studied for the priesthood and throughout his life he vacillated between the spiritual and the carnal.

In 1842 Gounod visited Vienna, Berlin and Leipzig, where he met Mendelssohn — a composer he resembles in many ways. Back in Paris he became the organist at the Missions Etrangeres. He married in 1852 and started to compose operas, initially unsuccessful works in the style of Meyerbeer and then lighter and happier works such as Le medecin malgre lui in 1858.

But it was with Faust in 1859 that Gounod struck gold. The enduring popularity of the work is due above all to the extraordinary richness of melodic invention: from Marguerite's sparkling "Jewel Song" to Faust's fervent "Salut, demeure chaste et pure" there is scarcely an unmemorable tune in the whole opera.

The operas Mireille (1864) and Romeo et Juliette (1867) were also successful, but his stay in England between 1871 and 1874 was a mixed blessing. He was favoured by Queen Victoria and found an audience for his oratorios La redemption and Mors et vita; but he also came under the sway of the eccentric and notorious singer Georgina Weldon. Gounod's infatuation drew him into a turbulent, hysterical world. She was often involved in lawsuits, even attempting to blackmail Queen Victoria to obtain funds for her singing academy. Gounod returned to Pans in 1874, but although he lived on for two decades his rich period of creativity was over. Only the Petite symphonic (Little symphony) for wind instruments has a youthful freshness that reminds the listener of Gounod's happier years.


Charles Gounod.


Pierluigi Bortoluzzi
Ave Maria
Elisa Chiaraviglio
Ave Maria
-Martha Kostiouk Hollier
Ave Maria
Rare Roses
Ave Maria
Bach-Gounod-Zespol Muzyki Barokowej Veloce
Ave Maria
Elisa Chiaraviglio

Ave Maria


Chour des Marais
Serenade de Mephisto

Choeur des soldats

Zachary Gordin (bariton)
Invocation: Avant de quitter ces lieux
Rebekkah Hilgraves
Ah! je ris de me voir si belle
Irina Vasileva
Aria of Margareta


Julie Brown
"Romeo et Juliette"
Je veux vivre  


Charles Gounod - Ave Maria
Ave Maria
The melody that Gounod wrote to go with the Prelude from Book One of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier began as an improvisation made one evening after dinner with friends. The arpeggiated chords of the prelude work as the accompaniment to the cantilena melody, not unlike a song by Mendelssohn or a Bellini aria. Gounod's father-in-law wrote it down and not only had a violinist and choir perform it for Gounod, but also sold it to a publisher. The Méditation, as the first published version for violin and piano was named, was an instant success, with publishers rushing out various arrangements for different instruments.

How the Latin text of "Ave Maria" ended up attached to the melody is the real story. The composer, with his penchants for romance and drama, would frequently become infatuated by young, married women. According to the family story, Gounod was at one time enchanted by a young woman by the name of Rosalie. He found a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine, Vers sur un album, which he set to the Méditation's melody, thinking it would be an appropriate gift for Rosalie. Although the text is innocent enough, Rosalie's mother deemed the gift inappropriate. She politely suggested the "Ave Maria" text as an alternative. Taking the hint, Gounod made minor changes to adjust the melody to the text, and a classical music hit was born.

Ave Maria (based on J.S. Bach's Prelude in C Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)
Performed by the Eaken Piano Trio
John Eaken, Violin
Nancy Baun, Cello
Gloria Whitney, Piano

Omo Bello sings Ave Maria, Gounod
Omo Bello - soprano
Orchestre Philharmonic de Radio France
Conductor - Mikko Franck
Jessye Norman - Ave Maria (Gounod)
1997 Kathleen Battle "AVE MARIA" Charles Gounod
Soprano: Kathleen Battle
Conductor: Robert Sadin
Album: Kathleen Battle - Grace (1997)
Charles Gounod - Symphony No.1 in D-major (1855)
Symphony No.1 in D-major (1855)

Mov.I: Allegro molto 00:00
Mov.II: Allegretto moderato 05:56
Mov.III: Scherzo: Non troppo presto 12:00
Mov.IV: Finale: Adagio - Allegro vivace 19:44

Orchestra: Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä

Conductor: Patrick Gallois

Charles Gounod - Petite Symphonie
Charles Gounod - Petite Symphonie, for flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 french horns and 2 bassons.

Adagio. Allegretto.
Andante cantabile.

Collegium Musicum, Copenhagen:
Toke Lund Christiansen, flute.
Bjørn Carl Nielsen, Gert Herzberg, oboe.
Niels Thomsen, Jørgen Misser Jensen, clarinet.
Søren Elbo, Klaus Tônshoff, basset horn.
Per McClelland Jacobsen, Leif Lind, Henning Hansen, Kjeld Rud Pedersen, french horn.
Asger Svendsen, Klaus Fredriksen, bassoon.
Frederikke Svendsen, double basson.
Michael Schønwandt, conductor.

Charles Gounod - Messe Breve No. 5 Aux Seminaire
Messe brève No. 5 aux séminaires in C major
Intèrprets: I Vocalisti Chamber Choir; Tobias Götting (orgue).
Charles Gounod Messe brève no. 7 in C
Charles Gounod Messe brève no. 7 in C
Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei
Kirchenchor St. Jakob
Cäcilienverein Cham
Orgel: Hermann Seitz
Leitung: Tibor Tasnádi

21.10.2012 DE-93413 Cham
Pfarrkirche Sankt Jakob
Stadtpfarrer Dieter Zinecker

Der Cäcilienverein Cham wurde am 20. Mai 1910 gegründet.
Der liturgische Dienst stand im Schaffen des Vereins immer an erster Stelle.
Unser Kirchenchor besteht derzeit aus 15 Sängerinnen und Sängern.
Neue Sängerinnen und Sänger sind herzlich willkommen.

Charles Gounod Requiem
Introito,Kyrie y Pie Jesu del Requiem de 1893 de Charles Gounod
Charles Gounod, Faust (2004)
Director: Götz Friedrich
Conductor: Patrick Fournillier.

Jonas Kaufmann, Faust ; Elena Mosuc, Marguerite ; Carlo Colombara, Méphistophélès ; Oliver Widmer, Valentin ; Judith Schmid, Siébel ; Katharina Peetz, Dame Marthe ; Peter Kálmán, Wagner.

Faust - Charles Gounod - 1995
Faust - Giuseppe Sabbatini
Méphistophélès - Samuel Ramey
Marguerite - Deborah Riedel
Valentin - Jeffrey Black
Siébel - Martine Mahé
Marthe - Claire Larcher
Wagner - Fabrice Raviola

Conductor - John Nelson
Orchestra - Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Chorus - Grand Théâtre de Genève

Faust, Gedda, Freni, Soyer, Mackerras, Paris 1975
Live performance from Paris, 1975.
Faust - Nicolai Gedda
Marguerite - Mirella Freni
Mephistopheles - Roger Soyer
Valentin - Tom Krause
Wagner - Jean-Louis Soumagnas
Siebel - Renée Auphan
Dame Marthe - Jocelyne Taillon
Angel - Catherine Bresson

Conductor - Sir Charles Mackerras

Charles Gounod: "Walpurgisnacht Ballet"
Choreographer: George Balanchine

Kyra Nicols
Ben Huys
Nichol Hlinka

New York City Ballet 1993

FAUST - Walpurgis Night (Maximova-Yagoudin-Vlasov, 1974)
Ekaterina Maximova (Bacchante), Shamil Yagoudin (Bacchus) & Stanislav Vlasov (Satyr)

Music: Charles Gounod

Choreography: Leonid Lavrovsky

Soldiers Chorus- Faust
French chorus presents the Soldiers Chorus; Faust, Charles Gounod.
Charles Gounod - La valse de l'opéra 'Faust' / Waltz
"Faust", Act II: Waltz

Wiener Philharmoniker
Rudolf Kempe

Faust Final Scene (Freni, Gedda & Soyer)
Mirella Freni as Maguerite singing the roof off the Paris Opera in 1975. With Nicolai Gedda as Faust and Roger Soyer as Méphistophélès. Charles Mackerras conducting. The production was by Jorge Lavelli.
Faust final trio - Caruso-Farrar-Journet & McCormack-Melba-Sammarco (1910)
Here's an interesting comparison: the Faust final trio (Alerte! Alerte! Ou vous ete perdus!) with Enrico Caruso, Geraldine Farrar, and Marcel Journet, 12 January 1910 Victor recording, and the final trio with John McCormack, Nellie Melba, and Mario Sammarco, 11 May 1910 HMV recording
Galina Vishnevskaya and Ivan Petrov~The Church Scene-Faust ,Gounod
Galina Vishnevskaya as Marguerite and Ivan Petrov as Mephistopheles sings "Seigneur, daignez permettre ..." / "Church Scene" (in Russian) from the opera "Faust," Gounod.
Conductor is the great Boris Khaikin, Bolshoi Theater in 1960 (?)
Charles Gounod - Faust (1859) - Ballad for Marguerite - "Il etait un roi" (Victoria de los Angeles)
Maria Callas - Air des bijoux - Jewel song - Faust Gounod
Maria Callas (1923-1977)

Air des bijoux - jewel song
"Les grands seigneurs...Que vois-je là.....Ah je ris..."
Faust de Gounod (1818-1893)

Enregistré en mai 1963 - Recorded in may 1963

Maria Callas - Il était un roi de Thulé - Faust - 1963
Montserrat Caballe " Ballade du Roi de Thule - Air des bijoux" Faust - 1970
Gounod: Il était un roi de Thulé (Faust) - Régine Crespin
Il était un roi de Thulé
from "Faust"
Charles Gounod (1859)

Régine Crespin
Jésus Etcheverry, Orchestre Symphonique de Paris, 1961

Dmitri Hvorostovsky "Avant de quitter ces lieux" Faust
From the Paris Opera 1975. With the sublime Mirella Freni as Marguerite and Roger Soyer as Méphistophélès. Charles Mackerras conducting. The production was by Jorge Lavelli.
Valentine's aria from Faust by Charles Gounod
Ghibong Kim, baritone,
Kwiyoum Lee, piano

Recorded at NEIU Recital Hall, Chicago
October 4, 2014
Viideo/Audio - Chicago Video Reporter

Gounod - Romeo et Juliette (Charles Mackerras)
Romeo - Roberto Alagna
Juliette - Leontina Vaduva
Mercutio - Francois Le Roux
Cont Capulet - Peter Sidhom
Stephano - Anna Maria Panzarella
Friar Laurence - Robert Lloyd
Tybald - Paul Charles Clarke
Gertrude - Sarah Walker
Duke of Verona - David Wilson Jonson
Gregorio - Jeremy White
Paris - Richard Halton
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