Catel, Charles Simon


French composer and writer, who was born at L'Aigle (Orne), France, and is known best as the author of a first-rate book on harmony, which was the text-book used for many years at the Paris Conservatory, and which has not been wholly supplanted in France or elsewhere. He began studying under Sacchini, Gobert and Gossec at the Royal School of Singing and Declamation, and, in 1787, was made accompanist and assistant professor of the institution, and, in 1790, accompanist at the Opera. His first work to attract notice was a De Profundus for the funeral of Gouvion, in 1792. Upon the formation of the Conservatory in 1795 he was made professor of harmony and began immediately to compile his work on the subject. This was published in 1802. In 1810 he became one of the inspectors of the Conservatory and remained there until 1814. In 1817 he was elected a member of the Institut and, in 1824, was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. His operas are few in number, but of high quality. Wallace was long regarded as his best work, although he won high praise for his Semiramis and Des Bayaderes, which Napoleon upon one occasion had performed with instruments muted and every mark of expression suppressed, a severe test for any work. He also wrote symphonies for wind-instruments; hymns; choral pieces; quintets; and quartets for strings and wind-instruments; overtures; songs; and solfeggi. His treatise on harmony has been translated into German, Italian and English.