François-Joseph Gossec was born in the village of Vergnies, then a French exclave in the Austrian Netherlands, now part of Belgium. He showed talent for music at a young age and became a choirboy in Antwerp, later travelling to Paris and coming under the tutelage of Jean-Philippe Rameau. He became known as a conductor, working for a wealthy amateur and patron of music.
His First Symphony premiered in 1754, and through his work as a conductor he was able to put on a number of his own operas and arrange performances of his music. He became well-known through his Requiem of 1760, and became acquainted with composers of the day, including Mozart, who described Gossec as a ‘very good friend’. Gossec’s life was devoted mainly to instrumental music, and his various compositions formed the backbone of music-making in France for most of his lifetime, with Gossec’s conducting promoting the work of other composers at the time. Though little known outside of France, his work was nonetheless influential on composers for generations to come.