French Music

French Music
  • Medieval music
  • Renaissance music
  • 17th, 18th and 19th century music
  • 20th century music

Music in 17th, 18th and 19th Century France

During the next three centuries that followed, German and Italians dominated the music scene. However, important compositions for operas and baroque harpsichord music were created by Frenchmen. The opera was the leading musical form during the 17th century and the French had their unique opera style, combining it with ballet. This made it distinctly different from the Italian-style operas.

The Baroque period was also significant in French musical history, when harpsichord music was at its peak. It differed greatly from German harpsichord music, in that it was made up of shorter and more concise dance movements and character pieces.

The Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic wars did little to encourage the activity and creativity of musicians and artist in general. Paris became a center for musicians from other countries. During this time the Paris Conservatory and the national Opera were established. In general, the works of foreign-born opera composers (such as Gluck, Cherubini, Grétry, Meyerbeer, and Offenbach) prospered, while the quality of French composers did little to stand out. This improved with time and by the late 19th century French names began getting credit for their compositions. Some of these included Jacques Halévy Georges Bizet, Charles Gounod, Jules Massenet, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Faure and Henri Duparc, among others.