The « Messe des Morts » (Requiem) by François-Joseph GOSSEC (1734-1829)
Editor: Jacques CHARPENTIER , sourced from the original publication in 1774.
Duration : 1hour and a half, for 4 mixed voices choirs, soloists and symphonic orchestra.
Editions A Coeur Joie publish the original version created in Paris in may 1760.
A musical monument recovered
In 1989, the year of the celebration of the bicentenary of the French Revolution, thanks in large part to the performance of works written during the last decade of the 18th century, Gossec was rediscovered and sung. His abundant contribution to this musical genre should not hide his genius that flourished elsewhere, especially in his symphonies - the majority of which are still ignored - and especially in this "Mass of the Dead", written in 1760.
This score was published in 1774. Two later manuscripts date from the years 1813-1814, close versions which however present important variants, or even completely new versions for certain movements, in particular the final fugue.
A masterpiece of European music
When Gossec created his "Mass of the Dead" in May 1760, in the Jacobin Church in Paris, Rameau still had four years to live, Mozart was four years old and Paris had not yet discovered Glück. This work, which was unprecedented at the time, is undoubtedly one of the great masterpieces of European music of its time. Everything is new. The intensive use of chromaticism makes the music very expressive, sometimes violent, always contrasted.
The solo arias use a wide ambitus and let express an intense lyricism, the Latin prosody is always and everywhere respected.
The choir writing, far from being academic, is always crossed by an intense rhythmic and melodic life. Harmonic discoveries abound and its science as much as an attitude of total freedom of counterpoint blossoms notably in the three great fugues of the work.
Finally, his orchestra sounds thirty years ahead of its time. Gossec doesn't play instruments, he really orchestrates. The choice of timbres is never formal or gratuitous, and the independence of the wind instruments is a great innovation.
There are many similarities with Mozart's Requiem. Mozart had the opportunity to listen to Gossec's "Mass of the Dead" in Paris and was deeply impressed. Mozart, still very young and as early as 1764, met Gossec who was then considered one of the first symphonists in Europe. The survey of the two "Requiems" presents an obvious filiation. Mozart's "Recordare" is inspired by Gossec's "Lacrymosa", especially in the last forty bars; Mozart's "Oro supplex" can be compared to Gossec's "Judicandus"; the tenor's recitative "Vado et non revertar" is surprisingly prophetic of Mozart's "Lacrymosa".
The "Mass of the Dead" is very close to classicism, but it is not forbidden to assert that this masterpiece, unfairly ignored, heralded the future.
François-Joseph GOSSEC was born in 1734 in Vergnies, a small village then French, but nowadays located in the Belgian Hainault. The son of a farmer, he received his musical training, notably at the master's degree of Notre-Dame d'Anvers. In 1751, Rameau made him enter as a conductor at the Fermier Général La Pouplinière; he then went on to work for the Prince de Condé and then the Prince de Conti. He will be on the side of the revolutionaries and will write many works of circumstance during this period. He was one of the first musicians to be decorated with the Order of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon. He died in 1829 at the age of 95.