Godard, pupil of Vieuxtemps, was a child prodigy on the violin. Although he failed to win the Prix de Rome, he quickly established a reputation as a composer and performer of almost Mozartian fecundity. Denied much success in the opera theatre, the Berceuse
of 1888 is a sole survivor in the genre. He wrote a great deal of piano music, chamber music (he worked as a violinist and violist in various ensembles); his hundred or so songs, often to his own texts, are never less than elegantly deft. In the 1870s Godard was perceived throughout Europe and America as a leading figure in the jeune école française, a reputation that faded with the emergence of more innovative composers. Of Jewish extraction, he was vehemently opposed to Wagner and his Teutonic theories (on race among other things) and refused to listen to a note of that master’s work. Schumann, on the other hand, was his idol (Godard made an arrangement of Kinderszenen
for string quartet). He was superbly gifted in the genre of the miniature and evocative character piece, but after his early death of tuberculosis the critical consensus was that his conservative nature, and lack of interest in contemporary music, had limited his musical achievements.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006
English: Richard Stokes