Cours de composition musicale ou traité complet et raisonné d'harmonie pratique

When Reicha applied for the post of Professor of Counterpoint and Fugue at the Paris Conservatoire in 1818, his Cours de composition musicale ou Traité complet et raisonné d’harmonie pratique, in press at the time, represented both an asset and a liability. In his application letter, the composer describes the work as the “fruit of thirty years of meditation and research”, but equally feels obliged to defend himself against “certain attacks . . . directed against [his] manner of teaching”. Indeed, the project of the Cours de composition is as ambitious as unconventional: Reicha in effect proposes to train the student in harmony, of course, but also in composition. Thus the work concludes quite originally with a section on the “manner of writing harmony for the orchestra”, opening the door to treatises by Kastner (Traité général d’instrumentation, 1839) and Berlioz (Grand traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration modernes, 1844), both of them students of Reicha. By teaching “practical harmony”, Reicha claims to renew both the pedagogy and the theoretical content of harmony treatises, which he proposes to adapt to “modern music” (Preface, i). Also, the work seems to oppose key points of Catel’s Traité d’harmonie (1801), the official textbook of the Conservatoire, thereby incurring sharp criticisms from the likes of Fétis (see the entry “Reicha” in his Biographie universelle des musiciens).

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digitized editions
place of publicationParis
years of publication1818