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Napoleonic and Revolutionary Music

Napoleonic and Revolutionary Music

Napoleonic and Revolutionary Music

Edited by J. David Markham
International Napoleonic Society


Airs Militaires Anciens: Marches Refrains Batteries de la Garde Impériale: Fanfares Royales et Impériales.
Corélia CC 875816 (1975). This is a decent rendition of period music by La Musique de l’Air de Paris. Unfortunately, there are no notes other than a simple listing of the 30 items performed, not all of which are Napoleonic. Still, it makes for good listening and is a worthy addition to your collection.

Chants de France.
École Militaire Interarmes: Promotion Capitaine Barres, 1992-1993.1993 SERP CMC 7114 SL 888. Compact disc. Eighteen choral numbers are performed in French, six of which are described and the words listed in the notes (French Text). The music comes from several different periods in French history, and is quite stirring. I guarantee that you probably have nothing quite like this in your collection.

Coronation Music for Napoleon I.
Koch/Schwann 3-1208-2 H1. This music, long thought lost forever, was discovered some thirty years ago in a dusty attic of the Paris Conservatoire, and has only recently been released. As a part of Napoleonic music history it is without parallel. Its performance here by the soloists, chorus and orchestra of the Capella, Saint Petersbourg more than does it justice. The notes, in English, French and German, include the words to the music and detailed information on the music’s history and the coronation ceremony itself. From the cover of the slipcase, notes and CD showing David’s Coronation to the notes and most especially the music, this is a quality production.

Echos de l’Épopée Impériale. Choix de Musiques Civiles et Militaires du Consulat du Premier et du Second Empires.
Edité pour le cinquantième Anniversaire de la Fondation du “Souvenir Napoléonien” par Eugénie Gal, le 21 Décembre 1937. 1988 SERP, 08 88 CMC 70048. Most of the 41 selections are performed by the Garde Républicaine de Paris, though several are performed by other notable groups. The notes include an introduction by Baron Gourgaud, former Président du Souvenir Napoléonien and information about the group, as well as information on several of the more important selections. Incidentally, the CD itself has David’s unfinished portrait of Napoleon on it which, no doubt, adds to the listening enjoyment!

Il n’était q’une fois la Révolution
Orchestre Regional de Jazz. 1988, SACEM ORJC 001. This unique and rare disc was produced to celebrate the revolutionary role played by the Dauphiné, and was part of the bicentennial celebrations of the region. It was produced by the minister of culture in Grenoble among others. The music itself is a jazz rendition based on Revolutionary music, and is wonderful. There are no notes with the CD, but the record version contains text and other information.

La Harpe au Temps de l’Impératrice Joséphine.
Symphony World SL 941. Catherine Michel, harp. Produced by the Fondation Napoléon, Malmaison, and La Maison de Chateaubriand. A wonderful collection of music composed and played for Joséphine. The notes, in French, give a nice explanation of the music and its origins, as well as of the three groups that produced the disc. Beautiful, relaxing music; much different than most of the music in this list.

La Musique de la Garde Impériale.
COVADIA CD 165108-2. Distributed by MSI. This CD is produced by a group of the same name that was founded in 1993. No performing group or date of publication is mentioned. There are no notes beyond the listing of the 10 songs and their arrangers. The music is performed quite well. There are, however, less than eighteen (18) minutes of music. Considering that most modern CDs have 60-75 minutes of music, and that the CD costs in the neighborhood of $25 USD, this is a real drawback, one might even say rip-off! It is available through CD Mail

La Revolution Française.
Performed in 1973 and released in 1987, Vogue, SACEM VG 651 600146. This is a rock opera about the French Revolution by a French group that was very popular at the time. Perhaps they were the French “The Who!” The music is stirring, the characterizations of the participants (Louis XVI, Robespierre, Talleyrand, Danton, Napoleon, et al) fascinating (and reasonably accurate, in my view), and the story of the revolution through the eyes of a love-struck couple, one from the streets of Paris, the other from the Royal staff, compelling. A great deal of fun mixed in with history!

Le Bal des Citoyens: danses et contredances de la Révolution, 1789.
Ensemble Orchestral de Marseille. ADDA Fonti Musicali 581105. Produced by the Conservatoire National de Région de Marseille in July and September of 1988. This compact disc features 24 dances popular from 1789 to 1800. The extensive notes in both French and English provide fascinating information.

Les Marches Napoléoniennes Sept Batteries de Tambours Neuf Ordonnances des Fifres et Tambours de la Garde Impériale Douze Marches et Chansons.
La Musique du 43e R. I. de Lille, sous la direction du commandant Philibert. 1987, Disques Déesse, Paris. Distribution: CBS. 276-2 CD. Each of the 27 items are verbally announced (e.g. “Pour l’Empereur.”) The renditions are excellent, and this is a must for anyone with the slightest interest in Napoleonic music. Notes (in French) regarding several of the major selections are included.

Marc Ogeret Chante la Révolution.
1988, SACEM, SOAC Disc, Granit, 882002 CD. Marc Ogeret sings 21 songs of the French Revolution in a style faithful to the period. This is the finest disc of French Revolutionary music that I have heard. Extensive notes give the background and context of the various songs. His rendition of La Marseillaise is, in my opinion, far better than the usual operatic versions based on Berlioz.

Marengo: L’Europa Scopre Napoleone: 1793-1804
Congresso Internazionale Napoleonico, Cittadella Di Alessandria 21-26 Giugno. Comune Di Alessandria, Gruppo Guala. NAP 001 Performed by Orchestra Classica di Alessandria. This CD was specially produced for the International Napoleonic Society’s Conference (Europe Discovers Napoleon: 1793-1804) by the Comune of Alessandria, which hosted the congress. It was my pleasure and honor to oversee the production of this Congress. The disc contains some very well done music from the period. More importantly, this CD also provides the listener with a rare opportunity to hear a first performance of music composed 200 years ago. It seems that Napoleon was scheduled to attend a ceremony in Marengo in 1805 to celebrate his victory at the battle of Marengo. Melchiorre Devincenti composed a Cantata for tenor and orchestra to be performed for Napoleon. Unfortunately, Napoleon never arrived, and the music was never played. The music was virtually forgotten and thought lost until Marengo began to prepare for the INS Congress. The current director of the museum and its archivist, Giulio Massobrio, discovered this music in the vast storage areas of the archives and arranged to have it publicly played for the INS Congress for the very first time. Each participant was also given a CD of the concert. I am unsure as to whether it is possible to order this CD, but I sincerely hope so, as it is a very important piece of history. The notes are relatively modest and in Italian, and the cover features the poster of the Congress.

Musiques de la Révolution Française.
Orchestre de La Musique Municipale de Bordeaux. 1987, HARMONIE, Cybelia, CY 825 DS 813. A nice rendition of some of the traditional music of the Revolution. The notes are in French, English, and German, and are quite useful, as each of the 12 selections are discussed.

Musique pour Napoléon d’Abel Gance/Soundtrack for Abel Gance’s NAPOLEON.
Erato Disques (1994) 4509-94813-2. When Abel Gance produced his classic 1927 film, an original score was composed by Arthur Honegger. Only twenty minutes of that original score have survived. One of his pupils, Marius Constant, composed new music that used those twenty minutes as a basis for two hour symphonic work that follows the story of the movie. Much of the music evokes the themes of period music, and is well worth a place in a collection of Napoleonic music.

Over the Hills & Far Away: The Music of Sharpe.
Virgin Records (1996).VTCD81 7243 8 41590 2 3 LC 3098. The Sharpe series on television and video has been a great success. This music from the series includes some songs that have been passed down from the era itself, as well as original music by John Tams (Rifleman Daniel Hagman in the series) and Dominic Muldowney. The notes include the words to the traditional songs. This is rousing and poignant music at its best, and is a worthy addition to your music collection, as well as to your Sharpe collection which now includes the videos, a book, and a board game!

Napoleon: Carmine Coppola’s Original Music for the Soundtrack of Abel Gance’s 1927 Film Masterpiece.
CBS Records MK 37230. Almost all of the original music composed for the classic 1927 silent film by Abel Gance has been lost. Kevin Brownlow spent the better part of twenty years piecing together the film. When Francis Ford Coppola decided to produce the film, he had his father compose a complete score to accompany the four hour film. The result is stirring music evocative of the era, as well as an important contribution to cinematic history.

Révolution Française. Choeurs et Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse.
1988, EMI Digital, CDC 7 49470 2. Many of the selections are similar to those in the following disc, but sometimes done in a different style. Of special interest is the rendition of Le Chant du Départ, which I consider to be one of the greatest songs to come out of the Revolution. The notes include English translations. The words for each of the eight selections are also included, though only in French.

Révolution Française. Choeur de l’Armée Française, Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine, et Mireille Mathieu (dans “La Marseillaise).
1988, EMI Digital CDC 7 49473 2 PM 518. This disc contains 23 selections mainly associated with the French Revolution, but also including material that would have been used into the Napoleonic period. The renditions are excellent. The notes include the text of the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, as well as information on the Garde Républicaine.

Soldats, Conscrits et Déserteurs. La Chanson Traditionnelle: Anthologie de la Chanson Française.
EPM Musique. 983192 ADE 771, 1996. A collection of 14 songs in French relating to the title (soldiers, conscripts and deserters). Several appear to be from the Napoleonic period, but the notes, in French, do not always make that clear. The French text of each song is provided. I found the performance of these songs very uninspiring, but as a historical record of such music the disk is quite useful. Purchased at The Emperor’s HQ (

Vivé la Liberte
ProArte/BMG D 164530. (1988) Denver Symphony. Most notable for a nice performance of the Berlioz version of La Marseillaise, and also includes various other classical pieces of the period. It is also notable for being in Digital Surround Sound. The notes, in English, explain both the music and the joys of surround sound.

Waterloo: Original Soundtrack.
Legend CD20 (1995). The film was produced in 1970, and only now is the soundtrack available. Like all soundtracks, there are highs and lows. But if you liked the movie…

Why, Soldier, Why? Songs of Battles Lost and Won.
Sound Alive Music SAMPP/CD/402 1995. The New Scorpion Band. While not strictly Napoleonic, there are a number of Napoleonic Era pieces, including Bony Crossing the Rhine/Soldiers Joy, Bold Nelson’s Praise, and St. Helena March. Perhaps most notable to many will be their rendition of Over the Hills and Far Away. This song regarding the prospects of a recruit was first heard in the 17th century, and the version produced here is from Marlborough’s 18th century campaigns. The words even survive as a nursery rhyme, but most people today know it from the highly successful Sharpe’s series. This disk is well produced and well worth hearing. Brief but useful notes in English. I purchased it at The Emperor’s HQ (