Maurice Emmanuel (2 May 1862 – 14 December 1938) was a French composer of classical music born in Bar-sur-Aube, a small town in the Champagne-Ardenne region of northeastern France. It was there where he first heard his grandfather's printing press which according to his granddaughter, Anne Eichner-Emmanuel, first gave him the feeling of rhythm.
Brought up in Dijon, Marie François Maurice Emmanuel became a chorister at Beaune cathedral after his family moved to the city in 1869. According to his granddaughter, Anne Eichner-Emmanuel, he was influenced by the brass bands on the streets of Beaune and by the "songs of the grape pickers which imprinted melodies in his memory so different from all the classical music he was taught in the academy of music." Subsequently, he went to Paris, and he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where his composition teacher was Léo Delibes. However, Delibes' strong disapproval of his early modal compositions (Cello Sonata, Op. 2, Sonatinas No. 1, Op. 4 and No. 2, Op. 5) caused a rift between them and subsequently caused him to study with Ernest Guiraud also at the Conservatoire. At the Conservatoire he came to know Claude Debussy who was also a pupil there. In addition, he attended the Conservatoire classes of César Franck, about whom he wrote a short book in 1930 (César Franck: Etude Critique).
Emmanuel pursued a notable academic career. He wrote a treatise in 1895 on the music of Ancient Greece, and was appointed professor of the history of music at the Conservatoire in 1909. His students included Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux. Emmanuel's interests included folksong, Oriental music, and exotic modes — his use of these modes in various of his works had appalled Delibes, who had vetoed his entering for the Prix de Rome. Other appointments included choirmaster at the church of Sainte-Clotilde from 1904 to 1907, assisted by Émile Poillot, during the tenure of organist Charles Tournemire.
The compositions of Emmanuel, seldom heard today even in France, include operas after Aeschylus (Prométhée enchaîné and Salamine) as well as symphonies and string quartets. Probably the creations of his most often performed now are his six sonatines for solo piano, which (like many of his other pieces) demonstrate his eclectic academic interests. The first of the sonatines draws on the music of Burgundy, while the second incorporates birdsong, the third uses a Burgundian folk tune in its finale, and the fourth is subtitled en divers modes hindous ("in various Hindu modes").