If the French Revolution hadn't turned into a bloodbath, if Napoleon hadn't turned into a tyrant, and if Austria, England, and Austria hadn't won the Napoleonic wars, François-Joseph Gossec might conceivably hold the same exalted position in music history that Beethoven does and his Le Triomphe de la République might possibly have the same high regard in world culture that Beethoven's Ninth does. Gossec has something of the same grand scale, lofty aspirations, and popular appeal as Beethoven and his lyric divertissement in one act celebrating the victories of the nascent republic has something of the same enormous scope, elevated tone, and common touch of his Ninth Symphony. Of course, Gossec was aiming a lot lower aesthetically in La Triomphe than Beethoven was in his Ninth and while the initial audiences might have been transported by the work's ardent patriotism, latter-day audiences may be put off by its aggressive aggrandizement.
But if they are, it won't be the fault of this stupendous recording. The formidable Diego Fasolis leads I Barocchisti, the Coro della Radio Svizzera, the Coro Calicantus, and seven vocal soloists in a performance that is enough to shake the walls and rattle the windows. While not perhaps the last word in refinement, Fasolis and his forces are the first word in magnificence with imposing choruses, impressive solos, splendid orchestral effects -- listen to the gargantuan tympani imitating the roar of artillery -- and, in the closing international ballet, a sense of joi de vivre that perhaps only a great performance of the Ode to Joy can match. As barely contained in Chandos' staggering sound, Gossec's La Triomphe deserves to be heard by anyone with an interest in the period.