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Alexandre-Etienne Choron

French musician and teacher of music (1772-1834)

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Choron, ALEXANDRE-ETIENNE, French musician and teacher of music, b. at Caen, October 21, 1772; d. June 29, 1834. Being denied by his father the permission to study music under proper guidance, he nevertheless endeavored to master the theories of J.—P. Rameau and his school. Later he received instruction in harmony for a short time, from the Abbe Roze and Bonesi. Through Bonesi, Choron became acquainted with the treatise of Nicole Sala (1701-1800) on fugue and counterpoint, and with Italian musical art in general. The result was his work “Principes d’accompagnement des ecoles d’Italie”. In order to acquire thoroughly the science of Kirnberger, Marpurg, and Albrechtsberger, he studied the German language. Thus equipped, Choron entered upon his wonderful career of reform in all branches of musical activity. In 1811, he was entrusted by the Government with the important task of reorganizing the more important church choirs of Paris and other cities and of directing the musical performances on solemn public and religious occasions. In 1816 Choron became musical director of the Grand Opera, but this engagement lasted only one year, on account of the unpopularity of his endeavors towards reform. He now brought about the reopening, under the name of “Ecole royale de Chant et de Declamation”, of the Conservatoire, which had been closed in 1815. In 1817 Choron founded the “Institution royale de Musique classique et religieuse”, which was subsidized by the Government and was destined to exert a far-reaching influence through the distinguished musicians it produced and its publication and performance of important choral works, especially those of Palestrina, Bach, and Handel. By the withdrawal of the Government subsidy on the death of Charles X, the school’s efficiency was crippled. This caused such disappointment to Choron that he did not long survive.

Besides accomplishing all this work, Choron published, in collaboration with Francois-Joseph-Marie Fayolle (1774-1852), “Dictionaire historique des musiciens”, “Methode elementaire de musique et de plain chant”, a revised and enlarged edition of Franeceurs’ “Traite general des voix et des instruments d’orchestre”, translations of theoretical works by Albrechtsberger and Azopardi, “Methode concertante plusieurs voix” (which treatise formed the basis of instruction in Choron’s school), “Methode de plain chant”, “Manuel complet de musique vocale et instrumentale”, and an “Encyclopedia musicale” in eight volumes. Choron’s school was afterward revived, as the “Ecole Niedermeyer”, by Louis Niedermeyer (1802-61), who, by means of a small Government subsidy, succeeded in keeping alive Choron’s principles and tradition.

Choron’s principal service to musical art in France consists in having trained and purified French taste.

Through him and men like Louis Niedermeyer and Joseph d’Ortigue there gradually developed among musicians that appreciation of the essential difference between sacred music and profane music—between music of the Church and music of the theatre—which finally culminated in the foundation of the now flourishing “Schola Cantorum” and the famous association “Les Chanteurs de Saint-Gervais” Both institutions were founded by Charles Bordes and became the principal agencies in France for the realization of the aims of Pope Pius X in regard to the reform of church music.


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