Famous 19th Century French Musicians

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century French Musicians, including Jeanne Calment, Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns, Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie.
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 1 
Claude Debussy
(French Impressionist Composer Best Known for His Opera 'Pelléas et Mélisande')
Claude Debussy
10
Birthdate: August 22, 1862
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died: March 25, 1918

Claude Debussy was a French composer whose career spanned over 30 years. Regarded as one of the most influential composers of his generation, Claude Debussy's works have influenced several other composers, such as Bill Evans, George Benjamin, Olivier Messiaen, and Béla Bartók. Claude Debussy is also regarded as the first Impressionist composer, though he rejected the term.

 2 
Erik Satie
(French Composer and Pianist Known for His Work ‘Gymnopédies’)
Erik Satie
6
Birthdate: May 17, 1866
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Honfleur, France
Died: July 1, 1925

Erik Satie was a French pianist and composer. An influential artist during his time, Satie's works served as a predecessor to later artistic movements like repetitive music, minimalism, and the Theatre of the Absurd. Apart from being a musician, Erik Satie was also a prolific writer, who contributed to publications, such as Vanity Fair and 391.

 3 
Maurice Ravel
(One of the Leading Composers of Impressionist Music, Known for His Orchestral Work "Boléro,")
Maurice Ravel
6
Birthdate: March 7, 1875
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ciboure, France
Died: December 28, 1937
French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel is best known for his orchestral composition Boléro. He rejected the Legion d'honneur and all French awards. He was one the first composers to realize the importance of recording music to gain a wider reach. Most of his music consisted of piano and orchestration.
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 4 
Hector Berlioz
(French Composer and Conductor Known for His Work ‘Symphonie fantastique’, ‘Harold in Italy’ and ‘Roméo et Juliette’)
Hector Berlioz
5
Birthdate: December 11, 1803
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: La Côte-Saint-André, France
Died: March 8, 1869

Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic conductor and composer who was highly regarded in places like Russia, Britain, and Germany. Although he did not achieve fame as a composer, Berlioz became renowned internationally for his skills as a conductor. He also wrote musical journalism, which includes his influential work, Treatise on Instrumentation. 

 5 
Camille Saint-Saëns
(One of the Greatest Organists and Composers of the Romantic Era)
Camille Saint-Saëns
5
Birthdate: October 9, 1835
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 16, 1921
French composer and multi-instrumentalist Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was an icon of the Romantic era, known for masterpieces such as the First Cello Concerto and the opera Samson and Delilah. He was initially a church organist and then became a freelance composer and pianist. He also taught music in Paris.
 6 
Albert Schweitzer
(Physician and Founder of the “Albert Schweitzer Hospital” in Lambaréné,)
Albert Schweitzer
5
Birthdate: January 14, 1875
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kaysersberg-Vignoble, France
Died: September 4, 1965

Albert Schweitzer was an Alsatian polymath who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophical work, Reverence for Life. He is credited with founding the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, which was a direct result of his philosophical expression. Schweitzer is also credited with influencing the Organ reform movement, which began in the mid-20th-century.

 7 
Georges Bizet
(French Composer Best Known for His Opera ‘Carmen’)
Georges Bizet
5
Birthdate: October 25, 1838
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 3, 1875

Georges Bizet was a French composer whose career was cut short by his untimely demise at the age of 36. Since his death in 1875, Bizet's final work Carmen has become one of the most frequently performed works in the opera repertoire. Although he couldn’t achieve success during his lifetime, Bizet's death is considered a loss to French musical theatre.

 8 
Gabriel Fauré
(One of the Major French Composers Associated With the End of Romanticism.)
Gabriel Fauré
4
Birthdate: October 22, 1845
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pamiers, France
Died: June 4, 1924

One of the greatest composers of all time, French pianist and organist Gabriel Fauré is best remembered for his masterpieces such as Requiem. His music career began at 9, when he was sent to Paris to become a choirmaster. At 75, he was awarded the Grand-Croix of the Légion d'honneur.

 9 
Jacques Offenbach
(Composer)
Jacques Offenbach
3
Birthdate: June 20, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany
Died: October 5, 1880
 10 
Jules Massenet
(Composer)
Jules Massenet
2
Birthdate: May 12, 1842
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montaud, France
Died: August 13, 1912
 11 
Charles Gounod
(French Composer Best Known for His Operas: ‘Faust’ and ‘Roméo et Juliette’)
Charles Gounod
3
Birthdate: June 17, 1818
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 18, 1893

Charles Gounod was a French composer. Prolific in his career, he wrote 12 operas and a large number of songs and church music pieces including his Ave Maria and Funeral March of a Marionette.  During the Franco-Prussian War, he fled to England, disrupting his career. He later returned to France and regained his position as a respected musical figure.

 12 
George Enescu
(Romanian Composer, Violinist and Conductor)
George Enescu
2
Birthdate: August 19, 1881
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: George Enescu, Romania
Died: May 4, 1955
 13 
Léo Delibes
(Composer)
Léo Delibes
2
Birthdate: February 21, 1836
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: La La Flèche, France
Died: January 16, 1891
 14 
Paul Dukas
(French Composer Best Known for the Orchestral Piece 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice')
Paul Dukas
2
Birthdate: October 1, 1865
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 17, 1935

Best known for his masterpiece The Sorcerer's Apprentice, French composer Paul Dukas was admired by both conservative and progressive French musicians. Born to a pianist mother, Dukas had begun composing while recovering from an ailment at age 14. Shortly before his death, he destroyed most of his manuscripts.

 15 
Adolphe Adam
(French Music Critic, Teacher, and Composer Best Remembered for His Ballets, 'Le corsaire' and 'Giselle')
Adolphe Adam
2
Birthdate: July 24, 1803
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 3, 1856

Adolphe Adam was a French music critic, teacher, and composer. Best remembered for his ballets, Le corsaire and Giselle, Adam was a prolific composer for the theatre. Adolphe Adam is credited with developing the French form of opera along with his teacher Adrien Boieldieu and his older contemporary Daniel Auber.

 16 
Charles-Valentin Alkan
(French Composer and One of the Greatest Virtuoso Pianists of His Generation)
Charles-Valentin Alkan
2
Birthdate: November 30, 1813
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 29, 1888

Charles-Valentin Alkan was a French virtuoso pianist and composer. During the peak of his career in the 1830s and 1840s, Alkan was counted among the most important pianists in Paris. Over the years, his music has been admired by several prominent musicians like Anton Rubinstein, Egon Petri, and Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji.

 17 
Paul Le Flem
(Composer)
Paul Le Flem
2
Birthdate: March 18, 1881
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Radon, Écouves, France
Died: July 31, 1984
 18 
Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy
(French Army Officer & Spy for the German Empire)
Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy
2
Birthdate: December 16, 1847
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 21, 1923
 19 
Reynaldo Hahn
(French Composer and Conductor)
Reynaldo Hahn
2
Birthdate: August 9, 1874
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Caracas, Venezuela
Died: January 28, 1947

Reynaldo Hahn was a Venezuelan-born French conductor, composer, singer, and music critic. A prolific composer, Hahn wrote a wide range of piano works and chamber music. His orchestral works include tone poems, concertos ballets, as well as incidental music for films and plays. Towards the end of his career, Reynaldo Hahn served as the director of the Paris Opéra. 

 20 
Ernest Chausson
(Composer)
Ernest Chausson
1
Birthdate: January 20, 1855
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 10, 1899
 21 
Maurice Duruflé
(Composer)
Maurice Duruflé
2
Birthdate: January 11, 1902
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Louviers, Eure, France
Died: June 16, 1986
 22 
Cécile Chaminade
(Former Pianist, Composer who was awarded the Légion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer)
Cécile Chaminade
2
Birthdate: August 8, 1857
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 13, 1944
 23 
Emmanuel Chabrier
(Composer)
Emmanuel Chabrier
1
Birthdate: January 18, 1841
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Ambert, France
Died: September 13, 1894
 24 
Louise Farrenc
(Composer)
Louise Farrenc
1
Birthdate: May 31, 1804
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 15, 1875
 25 
Édouard Lalo
(Composer)
Édouard Lalo
1
Birthdate: January 27, 1823
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lille, France
Died: April 22, 1892
 26 
Charles-Marie Widor
(French Organist and Composer Known for His 'Toccata' from the 'Fifth Organ Symphony' Composition)
Charles-Marie Widor
2
Birthdate: February 21, 1844
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: March 12, 1937

French organist, composer and teacher Charles-Marie Widor, counted among the greatest organists of his time, is best-remembered for his ten organ symphonies, of mid-Romantic era. The Toccata piece from his fifth organ symphony, often referred as Widor's Toccata, is considered one of the most famous organ pieces and is frequently played as recessional music during festive Christmas and wedding ceremonies.

 27 
Louis Vierne
(Composer, Organist)
Louis Vierne
1
Birthdate: October 8, 1870
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Poitiers, France
Died: June 2, 1937
 28 
Nino Ferrer
(Singer-songwriter)
Nino Ferrer
2
Birthdate: August 15, 1934
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Genoa, Italy
Died: August 13, 1998
 29 
Johann Friedrich Franz Burgmuller
(Pianist)
Johann Friedrich Franz Burgmuller
2
Birthdate: December 4, 1806
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Regensburg, Germany
Died: February 13, 1874

Born into the musical family of a composer father and a pianist/singer mother, Johann Friedrich Franz Burgmuller was no stranger to music in childhood. A talented cellist, too, the German Romantic composer later settled in Paris, where he composed everything from piano pieces to waltzes and ballets.

 30 
Ignaz Pleyel
(Composer)
Ignaz Pleyel
2
Birthdate: June 18, 1757
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lower Austria, Austria
Died: November 14, 1831
 31 
Vincent d'Indy
(Composer)
Vincent d'Indy
1
Birthdate: March 27, 1851
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 2, 1931
 32 
Daniel Auber
(Composer)
Daniel Auber
1
Birthdate: January 29, 1782
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Caen, France
Died: May 12, 1871
 33 
Rodolphe Kreutzer
(French Violinist and Composer Known for Her Opera 'La mort d'Abel')
Rodolphe Kreutzer
1
Birthdate: November 15, 1766
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Versailles, France
Died: January 6, 1831
A pioneer of the French school of violin playing and a co-author of Méthode du violon, Rodolphe Kreutzer was also a fine music teacher at the Paris Conservatory. La mort d'Abel remains one of his best-known operas. He had also been a chamber musician of both Napoleon and Louis XVIII.
 34 
Fromental Halévy
(Composer)
Fromental Halévy
1
Birthdate: May 27, 1799
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 17, 1862
 35 
Albert Roussel
(Composer)
Albert Roussel
1
Birthdate: April 5, 1869
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tourcoing, France
Died: August 23, 1937
 36 
Charlotte de Rothschild
(Socialite)
Charlotte de Rothschild
1
Birthdate: May 6, 1825
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 20, 1899
 37 
Marcel Dupré
(Musician)
Marcel Dupré
1
Birthdate: May 3, 1886
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: May 30, 1971
 38 
Emil Waldteufel
(Pianist)
Emil Waldteufel
1
Birthdate: December 9, 1837
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: February 12, 1915
 39 
Charles Koechlin
(Composer)
Charles Koechlin
1
Birthdate: November 27, 1867
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 31, 1950
 40 
François-Joseph Gossec
(French Composer)
François-Joseph Gossec
1
Birthdate: January 17, 1734
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Froidchapelle, Belgium
Died: February 16, 1829

Regarded as one of the most significant composers of eighteenth century France, François-Joseph Gossec began his career under Jean-Philippe Rameau, determined to revive the study of instrumental music in France. Although he is mainly remembered for his experiments in symphonies and chamber works, he also wrote numerous operas, string quartets and choral works, successfully leaving his influence on French music.

 41 
Ambroise Thomas
(Composer)
Ambroise Thomas
1
Birthdate: August 5, 1811
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Metz, France
Died: February 12, 1896
 42 
Walter Gieseking
(Pianist)
Walter Gieseking
1
Birthdate: November 5, 1895
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: October 26, 1956
 43 
Prince Edmond de Polignac
(Composer)
Prince Edmond de Polignac
1
Birthdate: April 19, 1834
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 8, 1901
 44 
Henri Duparc
(Composer)
Henri Duparc
1
Birthdate: January 21, 1848
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 12, 1933
 45 
Joseph Canteloube
(Composer)
Joseph Canteloube
1
Birthdate: October 21, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Annonay, France
Died: November 4, 1957
 46 
François de Roubaix
(Composer)
François de Roubaix
1
Birthdate: April 3, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died: November 22, 1975
Height: 6'2" (188 cm)
 47 
Étienne Méhul
(Composer)
Étienne Méhul
1
Birthdate: June 22, 1763
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Givet, France
Died: October 18, 1817
 48 
Sébastien Érard
(French musical instrument maker)
Sébastien Érard
1
Birthdate: April 5, 1752
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: August 5, 1831
 49 
Charles Munch
(Conductor)
Charles Munch
1
Birthdate: September 26, 1891
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: November 6, 1968
 50 
Alphonse Allais
(Writer, Poet, Journalist, Screenwriter, Painter, Science fiction writer, Composer, Comedian)
Alphonse Allais
1
Birthdate: October 20, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Honfleur
Died: October 28, 1905

French writer Alphonse Allais, also a journalist and humorist, wrote many collections of whimsical writings. He is known for writing the earliest example of a completely silent musical composition. The small house where he was born was later turned into a museum named Alphonse Allais Museum. The Académie Alphonse-Allais has been awarding an annual prize in his honor since 1954.