Famous French Composers

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Find out more about the greatest French Composers, including Camille Saint-Saëns, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Hector Berlioz, Kavinsky and Georges Bizet.
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 1 
Claude Debussy
(French Impressionist Composer Best Known for His Opera 'Pelléas et Mélisande')
Claude Debussy
7
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 
Maurice Ravel
(One of the Leading Composers of Impressionist Music, Known for His Orchestral Work "Boléro,")
Maurice Ravel
4
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.
 3 
Erik Satie
(French Composer and Pianist Known for His Work ‘Gymnopédies’)
Erik Satie
5
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.

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 4 
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo
(Known as one half of the former French house music duo Daft Punk, along with Thomas Bangalter)
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo
4
Birthdate: February 8, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

French musician, singer-songwriter, record-producer, DJ, and film director Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo is one former half of the French electronic music duo Daft Punk that he formed with Thomas Bangalter. The duo achieved both critical and commercial success with albums like Discovery and RandomAccess Memories. Homem-Christo has also spawned works through the record label Crydamoure which he co-owns with Eric Chedeville.

 5 
Django Reinhardt
4
Birthdate: January 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Liberchies, Belgium
Died: May 16, 1953
Belgian-born Romani-French jazz musician Jean Reinhardt was better known by his nickname Django. Some of his most celebrated composition were Belleville and Swing '42. Though he died at 43, he influenced an entire generation of musicians, which led to annual Django Festivals, a film, and a biography.
 6 
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. 

 7 
Camille Saint-Saëns
(One of the Greatest Organists and Composers of the Romantic Era)
Camille Saint-Saëns
4
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.
 8 
Jean-Michel Jarre
4
Birthdate: August 24, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lyon, France
French composer and record producer Jean-Michel André Jarre is known for his pathbreaking experiments in the electronic, new-age, and ambient genres. His signature style includes inclusion of overwhelming laser shows, fireworks, and projections in his music shows. He became the first Western artist invited to perform in China.
 9 
Olivier Messiaen
(One of the Major Composers, Organists and Ornithologists of the 20th Century Who Developed 'Modes of Limited Transposition')
Olivier Messiaen
3
Birthdate: December 10, 1908
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: April 27, 1992

French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen is credited with creating melodically innovative scores, using what he called "modes of limited transposition." An ornithologist, too, he added bird songs into his compositions such as La fauvette des jardins and Catalogue d'oiseaux. His Messiaen: Concert A Quatre won a Grammy.

 10 
Georges Bizet
(French Composer Best Known for His Opera ‘Carmen’)
Georges Bizet
4
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.

 11 
Pierre Boulez
(Composer)
Pierre Boulez
3
Birthdate: March 26, 1925
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Montbrison, France
Died: January 5, 2016
 12 
Edgard Varese
(Composer)
Edgard Varese
3
Birthdate: December 22, 1883
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 6, 1965
 13 
Gabriel Fauré
(One of the Major French Composers Associated With the End of Romanticism.)
Gabriel Fauré
3
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.

 14 
Thomas Bangalter
(One half of the former French house music duo Daft Punk, alongside Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo)
Thomas Bangalter
4
Birthdate: January 3, 1975
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France

French musician Thomas Bangalter had been part of the six-time Grammy-winning electronic music duo Daft Punk for 28 years, before it split. Known for wearing their signature helmets while performing, he and his partner, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, released iconic hits such as Da Funk and Get Lucky.

 15 
Alexandre Desplat
(Film composer who earned Original Score Academy Award nominations for "Argo," "The King's Speech," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," and "Philomena.")
Alexandre Desplat
3
Birthdate: August 23, 1961
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
 16 
Jacques Offenbach
3
Birthdate: June 20, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany
Died: October 5, 1880
 17 
Maurice Jarre
(Composer)
Maurice Jarre
3
Birthdate: September 13, 1924
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: 5th arrondissement of Lyon, Lyon, France
Died: March 28, 2009
 18 
Francis Poulenc
(French Composer and Pianist Known for His Works: ‘Trois mouvements perpétuels’, ‘Les biches’ and ‘Concert champêtre’)
Francis Poulenc
3
Birthdate: January 7, 1899
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 30, 1963

French composer Francis Poulenc was most self-taught, as he was not encouraged to join a music school by his pharmaceutical manufacturer father. Part of the legendary “Les Six” of French music, Poulenc was also a skilled pianist. He is also remembered for the opera Les dialogues des Carmélites.

 19 
Peter Abelard
(French Scholastic Philosopher, Logician and Theologian Known for Developing the Concept of 'Limbo')
Peter Abelard
3
Birthdate: 1079 AD
Birthplace: Le Pallet, France
Died: April 21, 1142

Medieval French philosopher, theologian, and poet Peter Abelard was born to a knight but gave up his inheritance to study philosophy and logic. He fell in love with his pupil, Héloïse, but her uncle got Abelard castrated, following which Abelard became a monk and made Héloïse a nun.

 20 
Jean-Baptiste Lully
(French Composer, Instrumentalist, and Dancer)
Jean-Baptiste Lully
3
Birthdate: November 28, 1632
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: March 22, 1687

Born to Italian parents, Jean-Baptiste Lully grew up to be a legendary composer who ruled the French courts. He started his journey as a violinist in Louis XIV’s band and later came to be known for his tragic operas. He had also apparently invented the French overture.

 21 
Josquin des Prez
(One of the Greatest Composers of European High Renaissance )
Josquin des Prez
3
Birthdate: 1450 AD
Birthplace: Condé-sur-l'Escaut, France
Died: August 27, 1521

Josquin des Prez was one of the most influential Renaissance composers. Known for his motets, masses, and chansons, he is revered as the main figure of the Franco-Flemish School. Details of his early days are vague, and he was, for a long time, mistaken as another singer, Josquin de Kessalia.

 22 
Richard Clayderman
(Pianist who has released numerous albums including the compositions of Paul de Senneville, Olivier Toussaint and Marc Minier)
Richard Clayderman
3
Birthdate: December 28, 1953
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France

Richard Clayderman is a French pianist who has recorded more than 1,300 melodies so far in his illustrious career. Having sold over 70 million copies worldwide, which includes 70 platinum and 267 gold albums, Clayderman is the world's most successful pianist, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. 

 23 
Yann Tiersen
(Musician & Film Composer Best Known for His Soundtrack for the French Film 'Amelie')
Yann Tiersen
3
Birthdate: June 23, 1970
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brest, France

Yann Tiersen is a French composer and musician. He often composes film soundtracks and is renowned for his contribution to French cinema. The 2001 romantic comedy film Amélie houses tracks from Tiersen's first three studio albums. Apart from making music, Yann Tiersen also dedicates his time to charity work. He mainly supports the international humanitarian organization, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

 24 
Christoph Willibald Gluck
(Composer of Italian and French Opera in the Early Classical Period)
Christoph Willibald Gluck
3
Birthdate: July 2, 1714
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Erasbach, Germany
Died: November 15, 1787

Composer Christoph Willibald Gluck left home when his father went against his passion for music and pushed him into forestry. He then reached Milan, where he learned Italian instrumental music and later fused Italian and French opera music. His best-known works include Orfeo ed Euridice and La rencontre imprévue.

 25 
Michel Legrand
(One of the Most Successful Foreign-Born Composers Ever to Grace the American Best-Seller Lists)
Michel Legrand
3
Birthdate: February 24, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 26, 2019

Michel Legrand was a French musician, conductor, composer, arranger, and jazz pianist. A prolific composer, Legrand wrote more than 200 television and film scores, apart from several songs. Over the course of his illustrious career, which spanned more than seven decades, Michel Legrand won several prestigious awards including three Academy Awards, five Grammy Awards, and a Golden Globe Award.

 26 
Chevalier de Saint-Georges
(Known as the first classical composer of African descent)
Chevalier de Saint-Georges
3
Birthdate: December 25, 1745
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Baillif, Guadeloupe
Died: June 10, 1799
 27 
Nadia Boulanger
(One of the Most Influential Teachers of Musical Composition of the 20th Century)
Nadia Boulanger
3
Birthdate: September 16, 1887
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 22, 1979

Born to a music instructor father, French composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger was no stranger to music as a kid. The first woman to conduct prime orchestras, she had the who’s who of the music industry, such as Elliott Carter, Roy Harris, and Quincy Jones, on her list of students.

 28 
Bob Sinclar
(Record producer, DJ who also became the founder of the record label Yellow Productions)
Bob Sinclar
3
Birthdate: May 10, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bois-Colombes, France
 29 
Jules Massenet
(Composer)
Jules Massenet
3
Birthdate: May 12, 1842
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montaud, France
Died: August 13, 1912
 30 
Iannis Xenakis
(Composer)
Iannis Xenakis
3
Birthdate: May 29, 1922
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Brăila, Romania
Died: February 4, 2001

Born to Greek parents in Romania, Iannis Xenakis was inspired to take up music by his parents, especially his pianist mother. He lost an eye in the Greek resistance during World War II but later excelled as an architect, musician, and mathematician in France, merging music and math through his musique stochastique.

 31 
Martin Solveig
(Disc jockey, Singer, Composer)
Martin Solveig
3
Birthdate: September 22, 1976
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris
 32 
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.

 33 
Jean-Luc Ponty
(Jazz violinist and composer)
Jean-Luc Ponty
3
Birthdate: September 29, 1942
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Avranches, France
 34 
Claude-Michel Schönberg
(Record producer)
Claude-Michel Schönberg
3
Birthdate: July 6, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vannes, France
 35 
George Enescu
(Romanian composer)
George Enescu
3
Birthdate: August 19, 1881
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: George Enescu, Botoşani
Died: May 4, 1955
 36 
Paul Mauriat
(Orchestra leader)
Paul Mauriat
3
Birthdate: March 4, 1925
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: November 3, 2006
 37 
Claude François
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ismailia, Egypt
Died: March 11, 1978
 38 
Stéphane Grappelli
(Former jazz violinist best known as a founder of the Quintette du Hot Club de France with guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1934)
Stéphane Grappelli
3
Birthdate: January 26, 1908
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 1, 1997

Stéphane Grappelli was a French-Italian violinist best remembered as the co-founder of a jazz group named The Quintette du Hot Club de France. The group became famous for being one of the first jazz bands to house only string instruments. Nicknamed the grandfather of jazz violinists, Stéphane Grappelli went on to play in concerts well into his 80s.

 39 
Charles Trenet
(Singer-songwriter)
Charles Trenet
3
Birthdate: May 18, 1913
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Narbonne, France
Died: February 18, 2001
 40 
Jacques Dutronc
(Singer-songwriter)
Jacques Dutronc
3
Birthdate: April 28, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
 41 
Sébastien Izambard
3
Birthdate: March 7, 1973
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
 42 
Darius Milhaud
(Former composer who rose to fame as a member of the group Les Six)
Darius Milhaud
3
Birthdate: September 4, 1892
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: June 22, 1974

Darius Milhaud was a French composer, teacher, and conductor. One of the 20th century's most prolific composers, Milhaud was part of a famous group known as The Group of Six. He also contributed greatly to the French film industry, composing music for films like Madame Bovary and The Beloved Vagabond. Milhaud is often counted among the most important modernist composers. 

 43 
François Couperin
(Former Composer who was known as Couperin le Grand ()
François Couperin
3
Birthdate: November 10, 1668
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 11, 1733
 44 
Léo Delibes
(Composer)
Léo Delibes
3
Birthdate: February 21, 1836
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: La La Flèche, France
Died: January 16, 1891
 45 
Ibrahim Maalouf
(Jazz Trumpeter & Composer Known for His Work in the Classical, Jazz, and Jazz-Rock Fusion Genres)
Ibrahim Maalouf
4
Birthdate: November 5, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Beirut, Lebanon

Ibrahim Maalouf is a French-Lebanese composer and jazz trumpeter. In addition to his many studio albums, Maalouf is also known for his contribution as a composer for many movie soundtracks and symphonic orchestras. In 2014, he was honored at the French Music Awards with the prestigious Best World Music Artist award.

 46 
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.

 47 
Adam de la Halle
(Former trouvère, poet and musician)
Adam de la Halle
3
Birthdate: 1237 AD
Birthplace: Arras, France
Died: 1288 AD
 48 
Lili Boulanger
(Composer)
Lili Boulanger
2
Birthdate: August 21, 1893
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 15, 1918
 49 
Jean-Jacques Perrey
2
Birthdate: January 20, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Amiens, France
Died: November 4, 2016
 50 
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.