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Camille Saint-SaënsOn Music and Musicians$
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Roger Nichols

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320169

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320169.001.0001

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Charles Gounod

Charles Gounod

(Portraits et souvenirs, Société d’édition artistique, 1899, 35–97)

Chapter:
(p.116) 20 Charles Gounod
Source:
Camille Saint-Saëns
Author(s):

Roger Nichols

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320169.003.0020

There are two sides to Charles Gounod's artistic personality: the Christian side and the pagan side, the seminary pupil and the Prix de Rome student, the apostle and the minstrel. Sometimes the two operate together, as in Faust, giving the work a sharply defined character; whereas in Polyeucte they are juxtaposed and cancel each other out. The choruses in Ulysse, the first version of Sapho, and Philémon et Baucis show the pagan unadorned, the masses and oratorios the Christian mystic. Ultimately, he had no other model except himself. Given that his technique combined archaisms and novelties, it was bound to upset the critics, and it is no surprise that from the very first he roused very different opinions, some people accusing him of living off borrowings from the past, others of writing incomprehensible music that only a handful of friends pretended to understand.

Keywords:   Charles Gounod, Faust, Polyeucte, Ulysse, Sapho, Christian, pagan, Philémon et Baucis

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