The French composer Louis Théodore Gouvy was certainly no child prodigy, and indeed is said to have exhibited almost no interest nor aptitude for music as a youngster. In fact, he received his formal education at a training college at Metz, after which he went to Paris in 1836 to pursue legal studies. However, he also took piano lessons with Billard, a former pupil of the virtuoso Henri Herz, which suddenly began to divert his energies away from his law courses, from which, incidentally, he failed to graduate. In 1839, Gouvy elected to completely change his career direction and saw to it that he was seen in the fashionable Paris salons frequented by Adolphe Adam and others, and secured theory lessons privately with Elwart. In 1841, Gouvy became a piano student of Pierre Zimmermann, and also spent several months in Berlin, where his first efforts in composition were published at his expense.
After further study under conductor and composer C.F. Rungenhagen, Gouvy passed the years 1844 - 1845 in Italy, completing his first symphony. This was premiered in Paris by an ad hoc orchestra a year later. During the years that followed, quite a few of Gouvy's works were given concert performances, almost always at his own expense.
After 1855, finding that his music was only given a lukewarm reception in France, he began to spend time in several German centers, and secured performances of several of his works in Leipzig and Berlin. Gouvy's only stage work, the opera Der Cid, was accepted in Dresden in 1863, but it was never performed. A man of independent means, Gouvy never secured any professional appointments, but received honorary membership in the Berlin Academy in 1895 and became a Chevalier of the French Legion d'Honneur in 1896. He completed more than 90 works spanning many genres, though was at best an averagely gifted amateur composer.