Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836)
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Rouget de Lisle
© RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot
La marche des Marseillais
© RMN-Grand Palais / Agence Bulloz
Claude Rouget de Lisle, an officer and composer born in Lons-le-Saunier, wrote La Marseillaise, which was actually written in Strasbourg rather than Marseille. He was Captain of the engineering corps at the Garrison in Strasbourg in 1791, and in April of the following year, when war was declared against Austria, the Mayor, Baron de Dietrich asked Rouget de Lisle to write the verses and compose the melody of a Chant de guerre pour l'armée du Rhin. It was adopted by the volunteers from Marseille when they entered Paris on the 30th of July 1792, later assuming the title of the La Marseillaise and becoming famous throughout the world.
Composed at a time in history when revolutionary spirit and the love of one's country were becoming one, La Marseillaise was made the national anthem by decree on the 14th of July 1795. Banned under the Empire and the Restoration, it was to reappear during the Revolutions of 1830 and 1848, and again became the national anthem under the Second Republic in 1879.
The history of the numerous variations and orchestral harmonisations of La Marseillaise is a complex one. In 1830, Hector Berlioz arranged it in a version for choir and orchestra and again in 1848, in a second version for solo tenor, choir and piano. "For anyone who has a heart, a voice and blood in their veins", he wrote at the top of the score.
Also written by Rouget de Lisle: Hymne dithyrambique sur la conjuration de Robespierre (1794), Chant des vengeances (1798), Chant des combats pour l'armée d'Égypte (1800) and the melody for Cinquante chants français (1825).