Gounod's symphonies are hardly groundbreaking in any sense, and they hardly plumb any depths. But they are well crafted, spirited, light and witty (without more than a hint of sentimentality, as opposed to many of Gounod's more familiar works), sunny and charming. Bizet obviously knew them when he composed his own early (and superior) C major symphony. Apart from that the influences seem mostly to have been Mendelssohn, Weber and lighter Beethoven, but always clearly infused with a very Gallic spirit. The first symphony is very classical in construction with a particularly charming slow movement - fun and attractive, without being very memorable. The second and somewhat more ambitious work at least tries to be more serious, but apart from some traces of drama in the first movement it is mostly light spirits and charm. In other words, this is hardly great music, but it is nonetheless very enjoyable and deserves to be heard once in a while. The performances here by the Orchestra of St. John's Smith Square are generally very good (and the wind section is very impressive), finely shaped and often bubbling with joy, although in some passages I would have wished for a slightly lighter touch (it may be just me, but Beethoven's shadow seems to be just a tad to prominent at some occasions in these performances). But by all means: this is very spirited and commendable playing, and the recorded sound is good; recommended.