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François-Joseph Gossec

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François-Joseph Gossec (January 17, 1734 — February 16, 1829) was a Belgian composer of operas, string quartets, symphonies, and choral works who worked in France.

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The son of a small farmer, Gossec was born at the village of Vergnies, in Belgian Hainaut. Showing an early taste for music, he became a choir-boy in Antwerp. He went to Paris in 1751 and was taken on by the great composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau. He became the conductor of a private band kept by La Popelinière, a wealthy amateur, and became gradually determined to do something to revive the study of instrumental music in France. Gossec’s own first symphony was performed in 1754, and as conductor to the Prince de Condé’s orchestra he produced several operas and other compositions of his own. He imposed his influence on French music with remarkable success. He premiered his Requiem in 1760, a piece ninety minutes in length, which made him famous overnight. The piece was later admired by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who visited Gossec during a rather unsuccessful trip to Paris in 1778, and described him in a letter to his father as “a very good friend and a very dry man”.

Gossec founded the Concert des Amateurs in 1770 and in 1773 he reorganised the Concert Spirituel together with Simon Leduc and Pierre Gaviniès. In this concert series he presented and conducted his own symphonies as well as those by his contemporaries, especially works by Joseph Haydn, whose music became more and more popular in Paris, and finally even superseded Gossec’s symphonic work.

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