Étienne-Nicolas Méhul

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Étienne-Nicolas Méhul
Méhul's grave in Paris

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul (born June 22, 1763 in Givet , Ardennes department , † October 18, 1817 in Paris ) was a French composer .


Étienne-Nicolas Méhul, engraving by Heinrich Eduard Winter

The father was chief servant to the Count of Montmorency and later founded a small wine shop. Étienne-Nicolas Méhul began his musical training as an organist in the Franciscan monastery in his home town. He later studied with the organist Wilhelm Hanser and in 1778 became his assistant or auxiliary organist in the Benedictine monastery Laval Dieu in Monthermé in the Ardennes.

In 1779 he moved to Paris, where he took composition lessons from the Strasbourg composer and harpsichordist Jean Frédéric Edelmann . He may have made his living as an organist, but there is no evidence yet. He worked as a teacher in the 1780s and published two volumes of piano sonatas during this time . The second volume was published with a so-called “considered” violin part, which doubles the subject matter in the piano.

Alongside François-Joseph Gossec , he was considered the composer of the French Revolution. His Chant national du 14 Juillet 1800 , ordered by Napoleon after the Battle of Marengo , almost got the rank of a national anthem, and in 1794 his revolutionary opera Horatius Coclès was written . In 1795 he became inspector of the Conservatoire and a member of the Académie des beaux-arts .

Méhul was best known for his more than forty operas , of which Joseph is still performed in Egypt . The opera was created in light of the Egypt-mode after the Egyptian campaign of Napoleon and his coronation. The subject was based on the empress' first name, Joséphine . Carl Maria von Weber directed a performance of the work in 1817 on the occasion of the foundation of the German court opera in Dresden . The most famous melody from this opera, the romance of Joseph A peine au sortir de l'enfance (German: I was a youth for years ) was wrongly given as the template for the Horst Wessel song , but this is probably based on the German Bank song I once lived back in the German fatherland .

In addition to the operas, Méhul composed six great piano sonatas, three ballets , six symphonies , stage music and masses .


In addition to his contemporary and rival Jean-François Lesueur , he has made a great contribution to expanding the subject matter in opera. He made some bold innovations in orchestration, and Méhul is considered a pioneer in the use of leitmotifs. Méhul's mastery in dealing with symphonic forms and purely orchestral works is already expressed in the overtures to his operas. It can be seen from Ludwig van Beethoven's letters that he showed great interest in Méhul's compositions; the French influence on his opera Fidelio is unmistakable.


Works for orchestra

  • 1794: Overture burlesque
  • 1797: Overture to La Chasse du Jeune Henri
  • 1797: Symphony [No. 0] C major (available: III. Andante IV. Presto)
  • 1808: Symphony No. 1. in G minor (I. Allegro, II. Andante, III. Menuetto, IV. Finale. Allegro agitato)
  • 1809: Symphony No. 2. in D major (I. Adagio - Allegro, II. Andante, III. Menuetto. Allegro, IV. Finale. Allegro vivace)
  • 1810: Symphony No. 3 in C major (I. Allegro. Ferme et Modéré, II. Andante, III. Finale. Allegro)
  • 1810: Symphony No. 4 in E major (I. Adagio - Allegro, II. Andante, III. Menuetto. Allegro, IV. Finale. Allegro)
  • 1810: Symphony No. 5 in A major

Works for wind orchestra and revolutionary hymns

  • 1794: Overture pour instruments à vent
  • 1794: Le Chant du départ ( Song of Awakening ) Text by Marie-Joseph Chénier
  • 1794: Le Chant des victoires
  • 1808: Le chant du retour pour la Grande Armée. Text by Marie-Joseph Chénier
  • 1811: Chant lyrique pour l'inauguration de la statue de Napoléon
  • Chant national du 14 Juillet 1800
  • Chant Funebre à la Memoire de Feraud. Text by Louis-Pierre-Marie-François Baour-Lormian
  • Hymn pour la Fete des Epoux. Text by Jean-François Ducis
  • Hymn you IX thermidor. Text by Marie-Joseph Chénier
  • Anthem of the vingt-deux. Text by Marie-Joseph Chénier

measure up

  • 1804 Solennelle Mass for soloists, choir and organ

Stage works

Choral works

  • L'Infortunée Lyonnaise

Works for piano

  • 1783 3 sonatas for piano op.1
  • 1788 3 sonatas for piano op.2


  • Brancour, René: Méhul J. Lanore - H. Laurens, 1960.

Recordings (selection)

Web links

Commons : Étienne Nicolas Méhul  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Erich Hubala : Ancient Egypt and the fine arts in the 19th century . In: Wektkulturen and modern art. The encounter of European art and music in the 19th and 20th centuries with Asia, Africa, Oceania, Afro- and Indo-America = catalog for the exhibition organized by the organizing committee for the games of the XX. Olympiade Munich 1972. Bruckmann, Munich 1972. ISBN 3 7654 1464 6 , pp. 36-41 (36).