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Rameau, Jean-Philippe (1683-1764)

Jean-Philippe Rameau

born: 25 September 1683
died: 12 September 1764
country: France

According to one early biographer, Rameau made his operatic debut ‘at an age when the ordinary mortal begins to decay’. This is a slight exaggeration: the composer was, after all, only fifty when his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, was first performed in 1733. Yet the statement draws attention to the curiously lop-sided pattern of Rameau’s creative life. Although his compositional activity extended over some six decades, the vast majority of his compositions—including almost thirty operas—belong to the second half of that period.

Born in Dijon in 1683, Rameau spent most of his early life in the comparative obscurity of the French provinces. He began to acquire more than a merely local reputation when he settled in Paris in 1722, publishing his monumental Traité de l’harmonie that year. This epoch-making treatise revolutionized the way in which musicians understood their art and has remained the basis of much of the teaching of harmony ever since.

Yet this reputation as a learned theorist was something of an albatross when Rameau finally plucked up courage to present his first opera. French audiences were initially disconcerted by the forcefulness and complexity of his music, and by what they saw as its excessively Italianate character. While there were some who soon came to terms with the richly inventive new idiom, for others Rameau became a hate-figure, the butt of satirical engravings and lampoons. A dispute erupted between the ramistes, as his growing band of devotees was known, and the lullistes, supporters of the traditional repertory still dominated by the revered though long-dead Lully.

During the mid-1740s, however, Rameau’s colossal stature as an opera composer was more generally acknowledged. After several commissions from Louis XV’s court, among them Platée (1745), he received a royal pension and the title of compositeur du cabinet du roi. By the time Zoroastre appeared in 1749 his works dominated the repertory of the Académie Royale de Musique (the Paris Opéra) to such an extent that one court official forbade the company to stage more than two of them per year ‘for fear of discouraging other composers’.

By the time he died in 1764, Rameau had become the grand old man of French music. His final years were nevertheless bedevilled by controversy. He was embroiled in several pamphlet wars concerning music theory, while during the notorious Querelle des Bouffons (1752–4) this formerly ‘excessively Italianate’ composer found himself under attack by Italophiles as arch-representative (with Lully) of the conservative and, by implication, discredited French style. His penultimate work, Les Paladins (1760), was a flop while his final opera, Les Boréades, was never performed during his lifetime.

from notes by Graham Sadler © 2004

Albums

Rameau: Keyboard Suites
CDA67597
Rameau: Pièces de clavecin
Studio Master: CDA68071/22CDs NEWStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Rameau: Règne Amour
CDA67447
Hyperion monthly sampler – December 2014
FREE DOWNLOADHYP201412Download-only monthly sampler NEW
Hyperion monthly sampler – November 2014
FREE DOWNLOADHYP201411Download-only monthly sampler NEW
A French Baroque Diva
Studio Master: CDA68035Best of 2014Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Fauré: Lydia's Vocalises
Studio Master: CKD488Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Favourite Baroque Classics
CDH55020Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
La trompette retrouvée
Studio Master: CKD294Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Rameau: Music for keyboard
Studio Master: SIGCD278Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Smörgasbord
CDA67184
Hyperion monthly sampler – June 2014
FREE DOWNLOADHYP201406Download-only monthly sampler

Alphabetical listing of all musical works

Accordez vos sons et vos pas  
Air gracieux – L'Amour, le seul Amour  
Air vif. Torture d'Alphise  
Allemande  
Allemande  
Amour, lance tes traits  
Aux langueurs d'Apollon  
Castor et Pollux (Rameau)
C'est trop soupirer  
Contredanse générale  
Courante  
Courante  
Dardanus (Rameau)
Double 5  
Du pouvoir de l'Amour  
Écoutons … D'un doux frémissement  
Entrée majestueuse des dieux  
Fanfarinette  
Formons les plus brillants concerts  
Fra le pupille  
Gavotte  
Gavotte vive (pour les Zéphirs)  
Gigue en rondeau I  
Gigue en rondeau II  
Hippolyte et Aricie (Rameau)
Honneur à la Folie – Aimables jeux  
Honneur à la Folie – Je jeux finir – Hymen  
La boiteuse  
La Dauphine (Rameau)
La follette (rondeau)  
La joyeuse (rondeau)  
La lyre enchantée (Rameau)
La poule  
La triomphante  
La villageoise (rondeau)  
Le lardon (menuet)  
Le rappel des oiseaux  
Le triomphante  
L'egiptienne  
L'enharmonique  
L'entretien des Muses  
Les Boréades (Rameau/Lidström)
Les cyclopes (rondeau)  
Les Indes galantes (Rameau)
Les niais de Sologne  
Les Paladins (Rameau)
Les petits marteaux (Rameau)
Les sauvages  
Les soupirs  
Les tendres plaintes (rondeau)  
Les tourbillons (rondeau)  
Les tricotets (rondeau)  
Les triolets  
Les trois mains  
L'indifferente  
Marche pour les différentes nations – Par tes bienfaits  
Menuet en rondeau – Si l'Amour coûte des soupirs  
Menuet en rondeau in C major (Rameau)
Menuets I & II  
Musette en rondeau  
Musettes, résonnez – Menuet en rondeau  
Ouverture (La discorde et la guerre)  
Platée (Rameau)
Pygmalion (Rameau)
Règne Amour  
Régnez, Amour  
Rigaudon I – Rigaudon II – Fuyez, vents orageux!  
Rigaudons I, II & double  
Rossignols amoureux  
Sarabande  
Soleil, fuis de ces lieux!  
Suite from Nais (Rameau/Pienaar)
Suite in D major (Rameau)
Suite in E minor (Rameau)
Suite in G minor (Rameau)
Suite No 1 in A minor (Rameau)
Suite No 2 in A minor (Rameau)
Tambourin  
Tambourin I – Tambourin II  
Tambourin I – Tambourin II – Partez!  
Tempête. La nuit couvre les cieux!  
Un tendre intérêt vous appelle – Tristes apprêts  
Vénitienne  
Vole, Amour, prête-moi tes armes  
Zoroastre (Rameau)
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