A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Catel, Charles
CATEL, Charles Simon, born June 1773 at l'Aigle (Orne); began his studies very early under Sacchini, Gobert, and Gossec, in the 'Ecole royale de chant et de déclamation,' at Paris, [Conservatoire de Musique.] In 1787 he was made accompanist and 'professeur-adjoint' of the School, and in 1790 accompanist at the Opera. The same year he became chief, conjointly with Gossec, of the band of the Garde Nationale, for which he wrote a vast quantity of military music, which was adopted throughout the revolutionary army. His first work of public note was a 'De profundis' for the funeral of Gouvion in 1792. Another was a Hymn of Victory on the battle of Fleurus (June 26, 94), written for chorus with wind accompaniment only. On the formation of the Conservatoire in 95 Catel was made professor of harmony. He immediately began the compilation of his 'Traité d'harmonie,' which was published in 1802, and remained for many years the sole text-book of France. In 1810 he became one of the Inspectors of the Conservatoire, a post which he retained till the suspension of that institution in 1814. In 17 he was elected Member of the Institut, in the room of Monsigny, and in 24 Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He died at Paris Nov. 29, 1830. Catel wrote largely for the stage—'Semiramis' (1802), 'L'Auberge de Bagnères' (1807), 'Les Bayadères' (1810), and other operas in 1808, 1814, 1817, and 1818. These have the merit of elegance and purity, but they were not successful; the public insisted on recognising Catel as a savant and a professor, and prejudged his works as 'learned music.' On one occasion Napoleon, who had a singular taste for soft and ineffective music, had the 'Bayadères' performed with all the instruments muted and every mark of expression suppressed—a very severe trial for any opera. Besides his theatrical and military music Catel wrote Symphonies for wind only, Hymns and Choral Pieces, Quintets and Quartets for strings and wind, Songs, Solfeggi, etc.; but it is by his Treatise on Harmony, by his great practical sense and ability, and by his character for goodness and probity that he will be known to posterity.His treatise is founded on those of Kirnberger and Türk, and at once superseded the more artificial and complicated theories of Rameau, which had till that time reigned supreme in France.
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