the imaginative conservative logo

vive la france Rouget de Lisle singing "La Marseillaise"

Here are ten pieces of classical music that were written about, or for, France.

1. De Lisle/Berlioz: La Marseillaise 

Its origin was as the anthem of the French Revolution, and La Marseillaise is today perhaps the most stirring of all national songs. The original was written by Rouget de Lisle; the arrangement that is best known today is that below, by the great composer, Hector Berlioz. Its opening lyrics declare:

Arise, children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody banner is raised,
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They’re coming right into our arms
To cut the throats of our sons, our women!


2. Bizet: La Patrie

Georges Bizet composed this concert overture to celebrate France’s role in the Franco-Prussian War.


3. Ibert: Paris

A Parisian by birth, composer Jacques Ibert wrote this symphonic suite in 1930 to honor his city. The suite contains six movements: 1. The Metro; 2. The Suburbs; 3. The Mosque of Paris; 4. Restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne; 5. The Steamship lle-de-France; 6. Parade at the Fair.


4. Machaut: Messe de Notre Dame

Guillaume de Machaut’s 14th-century work, the first known, full setting of the Roman Catholic Mass, was written for the Cathedral at Reims.


5. Honegger: Joan of Arc at the Stake

Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher is a hybrid opera/oratorio by Arthur Honegger, set to a libretto by Paul Claudel.


6. Fauré, Requiem in D minor

Gabriel Fauré’s Mass for the Dead was first performed at the Madeleine Church in Paris at a funeral mass.


7. Offenbach: La Vie Parisienne

Jacques Offenbach’s comic operetta, premiered in 1866, satirized modern portray contemporary Parisian life and has remained popular since its debut.


8. D’Indy: Symphony on a French Mountain Air

Vincent d’Indy used a French folksong as for the main melody for his Symphonie sur un Chant Montagnard Français of 1886. Unusually, the symphony features a prominent part for a piano.


9. Josef Strauss, Fireproof (Polka française for orchestra)

The younger brother of the famous “Waltz king,” Johann Strauss II, Josef  called his Feuerfest a “Polka française,” though there are no discernible French characteristics in this lively piece, which prominently features an anvil. It would be nice to think that “Fireproof” describes the mettle of the French people.


10. Haydn: “Paris” Symphonies

Franz Josef Haydn wrote this set of six symphonies (Nos. 82-87 of his 104) on a commission by the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, music director of the Paris orchestra, Le Concert de la Loge Olympique. They were first performed in the Tuilieres Garden in Paris. Marie Antoinette was so taken with No. 85 that it earned the nickname, “The Queen.”

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.


Print Friendly
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
2 replies to this post
  1. This is so wonderful. Thank you for writing this. So often, conservatives spend time reminding themselves and others of the leftist nature of France’s regime; it is easy to forget how many wonderful and courageous people live in France, who fight for the very principles and ideals held dear by conservatives everywhere. I echo the comment above: We will stand in solidarity against this Islamic barbarism.

    And may your piece buoy up the spirits of people everywhere, especially the French.

Please leave a thoughtful, civil, and constructive comment: