Although far from being overlooked and under appreciated, Charles Gounod is primarily thought of as a composer of Opera and Choral works, and not much in the way of instrumental pieces. Wrong. Looking at his extensive catalogue of works, instrumental pieces make an impressive discovery, and almost surpass in sheer number, his Vocal work.
Gounod wrote Petite Symphonie late in his career, in 1885, for flutist/impresario Paul Taffanel and his Societé de Musique de Chambre pour Instruments a Vent (Chamber Music Society for Wind Instruments), which premiered it in Paris on April 30 of that year. Its instrumentation is simply harmonie ensemble plus a single flute, reflecting both the somewhat backward-looking philosophy of the Societé and the importance of Taffanel. It uses the standard symphonic form from 100 years prior. The first movement has a slow introduction followed by an allegro in sonata form. The second is a gorgeous andante cantabile, almost an aria for flute. The third is a spritely scherzo with trio. The finale is another allegro that sparkles with lightness and energy. While the piece does show several Romantic-era tendencies, including long melodic lines and some surprising harmonic motion in development sections, it is at its heart a throwback to an earlier, simpler era where form and harmony were clear as day.
Fernand Oubradous (1903-1986) was a bassoonist, as well as co-founder of the legendary Chamber group, “Trio d’Anches”, soloist, conductor and Professor at the Paris Conservatory as well as Mozarteum in Salzburg. He was also founder of an international academy of arts (music, painting, sculpture, theater …) as well as establishing ” Oubradous concerts “which performed numerous world premiers. This broadcast, from circa 1952, features a group consisting of students of Oubradous at the Conservatory.