Tuesday, May 10, 8760

Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836) - La Marseillaise

Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (May 10, 1760 in Lons-le-Saunier, Jura – June 26, 1836 in Choisy-le-Roi, Seine-et-Oise) was a French composer who in 1792 wrote La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

[Max Steiner (1888-1971)
Casablanca: XI. Die Wacht Am Rhein - La Marseillaise (1942)]


Rouget de Lisle entered the army as an engineer and attained the rank of captain. The song that has immortalised him, the La Marseillaise, was composed at Strasbourg, where Rouget de Lisle was quartered in April 1792. He wrote the words in a fit of patriotic excitement after a public dinner. The piece was at first called Chant de guerre de l'armée du Rhin ("Battle Hymn of the Rhine Army") and only received its name of Marseillaise from its adoption by the Provençal volunteers whom Barbaroux introduced into Paris and who were prominent in the storming of the Tuileries Palace on the 10th of August. Ironically, Rouget de Lisle was a royalist and was cashiered and thrown into prison in 1793, narrowly escaping the guillotine. He was freed during the counter-revolution.

Rouget de Lisle wrote a few other songs of the same kind as the Marseillaise and in 1825 he published Chants français (French Songs) in which he set to music 50 songs by various authors.

His Essais en vers et en prose (Attempts in Verse and Prose, 1797) contains the Marseillaise, the sentemental prose tale Adelaide et Monville, and some occasional poems.

He died in poverty. His ashes were transferred from Choisy-le-Roi cemetery to the Invalides on 14 July 1915, during World War I. A monument was erected to his memory in Lons-Le-Saunier.


Bernard Sarrette (November 27, 1765, Bordeaux - April 1858, Paris), founded what would become the Paris Conservatoire.

Sarrette was the son of a shoemaker, and travelled to Paris as an accountant. During the French Revolution, he joined the Garde Nationale. There he proposed the formation of a corps of musicians, and was put in charge, although he was not a musician.

He gathered together forty-five musicians from the depot of the Gardes Françaises, and they formed the nucleus for the music of the Garde Nationale, with François Joseph Gossec as artistic director. In May 1790, the municipality of Paris increased the body to seventy-eight musicians.

When the financial embarrassments of the Commune necessitated the suppression of the paid guard, Sarrette kept the musicians near him and obtained from the municipality, in June 1792, the establishment of a free school of music.

Sarrette was briefly imprisoned from 25 March to 10 May 1794, although the reasons are uncertain. On the 18th of Brumaire in the year II (November 8, 1794) the school was converted into the Institut National de Musique by decree of the convention, and by the law of the 16th of Thermidor in the year III (August 3, 1795) it was finally organized under the name of Conservatoire. Sarrette regained the title of director during the reorganization of 1800.

For the last 40 years of his life Sarrette lived in retirement. The protection of Napoleon I was a source of disaster to him in 1815, when the conservatoire was closed; its subsequent history was watched by its founder as a mere spectator from outside.

Further Reading:

Piero Weiss and Richard Taruskin
Music in the Western World: A History in Documents
Bernard Sarrette, et. al.
A Musical Episode of the French Revolution (Pages 319-120)


[Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)
Liberty Leading the People (1830)]

The French Revolution (1789–1799) was a period of political and social upheaval and radical change in the history of France, during which the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of citizenship and inalienable rights.

These changes were accompanied by violent turmoil which included the trial and execution of the king, vast bloodshed and repression during the Reign of Terror, and warfare involving every other major European power. Subsequent events that can be traced to the Revolution include the Napoleonic Wars, two separate restorations of the monarchy, and two additional revolutions as modern France took shape.

In the following century, France would be governed variously as a republic, constitutional monarchy, and two different empires.

[8767 Johnson - Polly / 8760 Rouget de Lisle / 8756 W.A. Mozart]