Gouvy was more concerned with balance, moderation and good taste than in operatic glamour that would doubtless have brought him fame and fortune. But, as he came from a wealthy family, he never had to accept artistic compromise in order to survive, and was thus able to compose in the idiom that interested him most, even if it seems unpopular in his time in France. Even the hard-to-please Hector Berlioz expressed with surprise “…that a composer of his importance should still be so little known in Paris…”
Born into a French family with its roots in Belgium, he was German by nationality and could not attend the Paris Conservatorie. He took private lessons and became a respected pianist, but far from the virtuosos in the music salons. The music he composed was far from fashion and might not have brought him acclaim in France, but it did earn him respect from his colleagues.