François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829) was born into a Walloon peasant family in Vergnies, Hainaut and as a child revealed remarkable musical gifts. He began his musical studies at the age of six at the collegiate church of Walcourt. Gossec went to Paris in February 1751 where he secure a violinist's. position with an orchestra under the directorship of Rameau. Gossec met Johann Stamitz who directed La Pouplinière’s orchestra in 1754-1755 and through him became acquainted with the latest structural and stylistic innovations of the Mannheim School. During his period with La Pouplinière Gossec published 24 symphonies in four sets (1756-ca 1762) and six symphonies périodiques, one of which, the Symphony in D (1761), is among the first orchestral works in France to use clarinets. In 1762 Gossec became director of the private theatre of Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, at Chantilly where he remained for the next eight years.
The Concert des Amateurs, founded by Gossec in 1769, soon gained renown as one of Europe’s finest orchestras During each of his four years as director Gossec conducted performances of his own symphonies written especially for this orchestra; during his final year with the Concert, Gossec became the first to conduct a Haydn symphony in France.
In 1773 Gossec assumed joint directorship of the Concert Spirituel (with Simon Leduc and Pierre Gaviniès) remaining there until 1777. He simultaneously maintained his association with the Opéra and oversaw productions of works by Grétry, Gluck and Piccini; he assumed the title maître de musique in 1775.
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