Charles Gounod

Two major works by Gounod were first performed at the festivals. In 1882 there were two performances of “The Redemption” which Gounod conducted himself. He intended to return to Birmingham again in 1885 to conduct another new work, “Mors et Vita” but for various reasons was unable to do so.


His involvement with the festivals commenced in the early 1870's. An interesting news clipping from 1873 concerns Gounod and the attempts of the committee to commission a new oratorio for the 1876 festival. The article blames the “blunderings of the Festival Committee” and claims that the local authorities are too much under the influence of the London publishers who are only interested in pushing forward works which will be profitable for them. The writer claims that as a consequence of the “blunderings” Birmingham will never produce a new work by Gounod and had thrown away “the chance of repeating the glory of 1846”. The writer says “Should this be so, it may be, and in future times will be, charged on the Birmingham Committee that they, by blundering and ignorance, not only sacrificed the honour of their town but that they robbed the world of what might have proved much more value than many Birmingham Music Festivals”.


The first performance of “The Redemption” was not without controversy but not from a musical point of view. Gounod had been involved with a married woman, Georgina Weldon, when she allowed him to live with her in England1871 whilst he was avoiding the Franco-Prussian war. After he ended their relationship she sued Gounod for what she claimed as rent he owed her in excess of £2,000.00. She turned up at the Town Hall before the performance but was not allowed in. She claimed she had been harmed by an official at the town Hall when she tried to enter. She took the matter to the police and to court but it all came to nothing. Contemporary news clippings go into quite some detail about the matter. One wonders what the tabloid press of today would have made of it!

Birmingham Triennial Music Festivals