Jean-François Le Sueur
Jean-François Le Sueur was born in a tiny village called Plessiel, near Abbeville. His great-uncle was the painter Eustache Le Sueur. He started his musical training by singing in the choir at the church of Abbeville, then at the cathedral of Amiens. Le Sueur became chorus master at the cathedral of Sées. He went to Paris to study harmony. His teacher was Abbé Nicolas Roze, chorus master at the church Saints-Innocents. Le Sueur got jobs at Dijon (1779), Le Mans (1782), Tours (1783) and then took over Roze’s job at the Saints-Innocents at Paris. In 1786 he was made music director at the famous church Notre-Dame de Paris.
At Notre Dame he started to use orchestras to play the music for some of the special services. The priests did not like this. Le Sueur replied by writing a little book about music for big religious celebrations. It was a bad time in France financially and the church had to make savings, so Le Sueur could not have his orchestra any more, so he resigned from his job.
Le Sueur spent some time in London, 1788-92, then returned to Paris where the revolution was going on. Three of his operas were performed, and he became professor at the Ecole de la Garde Nationale, and then at the Conservatoire which was very new at the time. There he taught basic music theory. He was unable to get any more operas of his performed. He wrote a book saying how music should be taught in France, and criticizing the Conservatoire and its director. Because of that he lost his job at the Conservatoire.
Le Sueur now had no job and so he was very poor. Then, in 1804, Napoleon made him maître de la chapelle at the Tuileries in the place of Giovanni Paisiello. He was then able to have his most famous work performed at the Opéra. It was called Ossian ou Les bardes. Napoleon liked it very much and gave Le Sueur the cross of the Légion d'honneur. Le Sueur composed the Triumphal March for the coronation of Napoleon. In 1813, he was given a position at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, replacing André Grétry.
At the Bourbon Restoration, he was named composer of the royal chapel and conductor of the orchestra of the Opéra. From the beginning of 1818, he taught composition at the Conservatoire. He stayed there many years. His most famous pupils were Hector Berlioz, Ambroise Thomas and Charles Gounod.
He died in Paris.