The Music Plays On — The Revolutionary Music of Étienne Méhul

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Étienne Méhul

Known as the “brother of the Marsellaise,” Méhul’s Chant du départ (Song of Departure) was the anthem of the First Empire. The song was first performed on July 14, 1794 and 18,000 copies were quickly printed and given to the Republican army. It remains in the repertoire of the French Army to this day.

The seven stanzas of this remarkable song take the point of view of seven entirely points of view, from a mother’s to three warriors —

Méhul’s name and influence may have been lost to history but his music, in the form of patriotic songs such as Chant du départ as well as his very successful operas, were very important in establishing an artistic identity that was representative of this new democracy within an ancient culture. Méhul’s music and aesthetic was very influential on the music and politics of Ludwig van Beethoven, whose revolutionary and democratic ideals were in direct opposition to the Habsburg Empire of Vienna. This influence can certainly be heard in the four symphonies of Méhul and particularly in this searing performance of the Symphony №1 in G minor.

And in this dramatic performance of Méhul’s Symphony №4 in E Major.

Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic

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