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Gounod took private music lessons with Reicha and studied with Halevy and Le Sueur at the University of Paris. Being moved by the music of Palestrina, among the polyphony he heard at the Sistine Chapel, Gounod almost joined the clergy. He wrote an extremely ornamented mass after other masses that were quite ascetic. Next he composed two operas, one along the style of Gluck and the other Meyerbeer, both of which failed. The next five operas brought fame to his name including the opera "Faust" and "Romeo et Juliette." He spent four years in England escaping the Franco-Prussian war and fulfilling an English demand for choral music. He composed numerous choral pieces and songs but eventually was caught up in scandals that brought his compositional life to an end. The effect that Gounod had on the next generation of composers can only be understood through their music, the music of Bizet, Faure, and Massenet. Others praised the lucidity of his structures, gentle pathos and orchestral painting (such as Tchaikovsky, Poulenc, Auric, and Ravel).
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Charles Francois Gounod
17 June 1818 in Paris, France