Michel Corrette

Michel Corrette


• 1707 1795


Michel Corrette was the son of an organist, Gaspard Corrette. Details of his life are sketchy and some authorities suggest he may have been born at a date later than that given and at St. Germain-en-Laye.

His professional life appears to have begun in 1725 with an appointment as organist at the church in Rouen. Soon after that, he moved to Paris, where he married Marie-Catherine Morize on January 8, 1733.

Most of what is known about his life is a chronicle of his titles, positions, and publications. He was named Grand maître des Chevaliers du Pivots in 1734, became organist to the Grand Prior of France in 1737, and organist of the Jesuit College of Paris in 1750. He received the title Chevalier de l'Ordre de Christ in the same year. In 1759, he gained the position of organist for the Prince of Conti of the Church of St. Marie-Madeleine in 1760, and to the Duc d'Agoulême in 1780.

He was a popular teacher with numerous pupils. He composed motets and masses, secular vocal works, and operas and ballets. He also produced large numbers of arrangements of other music and it is said the music he arranged is much more interesting than the music he composed outright. His best-known works are the Concerts comiques. There are 25 such surviving works in his catalog, based on popular tunes of the day and arranged for three melody instruments and continuo. These are genuine concertos in the standard form of the day, but relatively simple and not musically deep. Other sets of concertos were written on well-known noëls. He wrote light music with programmatic content for amusement, with titles like The Taking of Jericho, The Seven-League Boots, and -- taking advantage of the French enthusiasm for the American Revolution -- Echoes of Boston.

To musical scholars, he is counted as exceptionally important for leaving nearly 20 method books for various instruments, although they were not always viewed as valuable when Corrette wrote them. While these books are full of humorous stories, they relate to the position of musicians in French and English society and are full of observations about the proper performance of various styles of music. Thus, they aid in understanding the correct performance practices of music of a large part of the eighteenth century.