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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.