Jean-Philipe Rameau, 1683-1764

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Selected Recordings

Les Indes galantes: Chaconne

Platée, La Folie

Gavotte with 6 variations on piano

Selected Sheet Music

Laboravi clamans
laboravi
Source: CPDL.org

Showcase Piece

Les Cyclopes: Harpsichord Solo

Notes and Commentary

“With Jean-Philipe Rameau, the golden age of French classical opera is at hand. Lully was the founder of the French opera, and in essence Rameau’s operas were an extension of Lully, and not a departure. This fact makes all the more ridiculous the bitter war raged against Rameau by the Lully faction, which came to regard Rameau as an arch enemy, the negation of what Lully stood for and accomplished.”—David Ewen, The Complete Book of Classical Music

“Top early French harpsichord genius, theorist, and opera specialist”—Phil GouldingClassical Music

Jean-Philippe Rameau  was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François Couperin.

Little is known about Rameau’s early years, and it was not until the 1720s that he won fame as a major theorist of music with his Treatise on Harmony (1722). He was almost 50 before he embarked on the operatic career on which his reputation chiefly rests. His debut, Hippolyte Et Aricie (1733), caused a great stir and was fiercely attacked for its revolutionary use of harmony by the supporters of Lully’s style of music.

Nevertheless, Rameau’s pre-eminence in the field of French opera was soon acknowledged, and he was later attacked as an “establishment” composer by those who favoured Italian opera during the controversy known as the Querelle des Bouffons in the 1750s. Rameau’s music had gone out of fashion by the end of the 18th century, and it was not until the 20th that serious efforts were made to revive it. Today, he enjoys renewed appreciation with performances and recordings of his music ever more frequent. He lived from September 25, 1683, to September 12, 1764.—Excerpted from Wikipedia 

Books and Music

Selected Books

Treatise on Harmony
Dover Books on Music, 1971
Jean-Philippe Rameau
$13.59 at Amazon

treatise

“The importance of this work in the history of music would be hard to overestimate. While later music theorists and analysts, such as Schenker, find this emphasis on chords to be destructive to the horizontal considerations that make a great work hold together, this work has influenced so many people that even those that do not even know his name but talk about root position chords and their inversions are invoking his concepts without realizing the source.”—Craig Matteson on Amazon

Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work
Cuthbert Girdlestone
Dover Publications, 1990
$31.01 used

lifeandwork

“OK, this is unquestionably a major book on Rameau, if not THE major work. So let’s get that out of the way. Masterful, scholarly, detailed and analytical, it’s a must. But, Rameau gave us more than most people know. First of all, he codified harmony for centuries to come. . . . The Baroque started with harmony in flux, and by the time it was over, there were certain progressions and cadences that had become established, and that still make sense today. . . .  And Rameau was the man who set it down. His treatises are hard reading, and I suspect still not fully understood. And here is a basic problem with Girdlestone. In such a thick book, 600 pages, how can you fail to even try [to talk about this]? He mentions that others have covered the subject, and backs out at the outset of a brief chapter in which he mainly teeters on the verge of calling Rameau a crank. And that is not very deep or adventurous for what aims to be a definitive book on Rameau.”—Fernand Raynaud on Amazon

Selected Music
Hebe Les Fetes d’Hebe (1998), 2-CD set

imaginaire Une Symphonie Imaginaire (2005), 1 CD

41Q5BMR8QZL._AA160_ Overtures (1997), 1 CD

Complete Works

The following list is excerpted from Wikipedia.
RCT numbering refers to Rameau Catalogue Thématique established by Sylvie Bouissou and Denis Herlin.

Instrumental works

  • Pièces de clavecin. Trois livres. “Pieces for harpsichord”, 3 books, published 1706, 1724, 1726/27(?). 

    • RCT 1 – Premier livre de Clavecin (1706)
    • RCT 2 – Pièces de clavecin (1724) – Suite in E minor
    • RCT 3 – Pièces de clavecin (1724) – Suite in D major
    • RCT 4 – Pièces de clavecin (1724) – Menuet in C major
    • RCT 5 – Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin (1726/27) – Suite in A minor
    • RCT 6 – Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin (1726/27) – Suite in G minor
  • Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts Five albums of character pieces for harpsichord, violin and viol. (1741)
    • RCT 7 – Concert I in C minor
    • RCT 8 – Concert II in G major
    • RCT 9 – Concert III in A major
    • RCT 10 – Concert IV in B flat major
    • RCT 11 – Concert V in D minor
  • RCT 12 – La Dauphine for harpsichord. (1747)
  • RCT 12bis – Les petits marteaux for harpsichord.
  • Several orchestral dance suites extracted from his operas.

Motets

  • RCT 13 – Deus noster refugium (c.1713–1715)
  • RCT 14 – In convertendo (probably before 1720)
  • RCT 15 – Quam dilecta (c. 1713–1715)
  • RCT 16 – Laboravi (published in the Traité de l’harmonie, 1722)

Canons

  • RCT 17 – Ah! loin de rire, pleurons (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) (pub. 1722)
  • RCT 18 – Avec du vin, endormons-nous (2 sopranos, Tenor) (1719)
  • RCT 18bis – L’épouse entre deux draps (3 sopranos) (formerly attributed to François Couperin)
  • RCT 18ter – Je suis un fou Madame (3 voix égales) (1720)
  • RCT 19 – Mes chers amis, quittez vos rouges bords (3 sopranos, 3 basses) (pub. 1780)
  • RCT 20 – Réveillez-vous, dormeur sans fin (5 voix égales) (pub. 1722)
  • RCT 20bis – Si tu ne prends garde à toi (2 sopranos, bass) (1720)

Songs

  • RCT 21.1 – L’amante préoccupée or A l’objet que j’adore (soprano, continuo) (1763)
  • RCT 21.2 – Lucas, pour se gausser de nous (soprano, bass, continuo) (pub. 1707)
  • RCT 21.3 – Non, non, le dieu qui sait aimer (soprano, continuo) (1763)
  • RCT 21.4 – Un Bourbon ouvre sa carrière or Un héros ouvre sa carrière (alto, continuo) (1751, air belonging to Acante et Céphise but censored before its first performance and never reintroduced in the work).

Cantatas

  • RCT 23 – Aquilon et Orithie (between 1715 and 1720)
  • RCT 28 – Thétis (same period)
  • RCT 26 – L’impatience (same period)
  • RCT 22 – Les amants trahis (around 1720)
  • RCT 27 – Orphée (same period)
  • RCT 24 – Le berger fidèle (1728)
  • RCT 25 – Cantate pour le jour de la Saint Louis (1740)

Operas and stage works

Main article: List of operas by Rameau

Tragédies en musique

  • RCT 43 – Hippolyte et Aricie (1733; revised 1742)
  • RCT 32 – Castor et Pollux (1737; revised 1754)
  • RCT 35 – Dardanus (1739; revised 1744 and 1760)
  • RCT 62 – Zoroastre (1749; revised 1756, with new music for Acts II, III & V)
  • RCT 31 – Les Boréades or Abaris (unperformed; in rehearsal 1763)

Opéra-ballets

  • RCT 44 – Les Indes galantes (1735; revised 1736)
  • RCT 41 – Les fêtes d’Hébé or les Talens Lyriques (1739)
  • RCT 39 – Les fêtes de Polymnie (1745)
  • RCT 59 – Le temple de la gloire (1745; revised 1746)
  • RCT 38 – Les fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour or Les Dieux d’Egypte (1747)
  • RCT 58 – Les surprises de l’Amour (1748; revised 1757)

Pastorales héroïques

  • RCT 60 – Zaïs (1748)
  • RCT 49 – Naïs (1749)
  • RCT 29 – Acante et Céphise or La sympathie (1751)
  • RCT 34 – Daphnis et Eglé (1753)

Comédies lyriques

  • RCT 53 – Platée or Junon jalouse (1745)
  • RCT 51 – Les Paladins or Le Vénitien (1760)

Comédie-ballet

  • RCT 54 – La princesse de Navarre (1744)

Actes de ballet

  • RCT 33 – Les courses de Tempé (1734)
  • RCT 40 – Les fêtes de Ramire (1745)
  • RCT 52 – Pigmalion (1748)
  • RCT 42 – La guirlande or Les fleurs enchantées (1751)
  • RCT 57 – Les sibarites or Sibaris (1753)
  • RCT 48 – La naissance d’Osiris or La Fête Pamilie (1754)
  • RCT 30 – Anacréon (1754)
  • RCT 58 – Anacréon (completely different work from the above, 1757, 3rd Entrée of Les surprises de l’Amour)
  • RCT 61 – Zéphire (date unknown)
  • RCT 50 – Nélée et Myrthis (date unknown)
  • RCT 45 – Io (unfinished, date unknown)

Lost works

Main article: Lost operas by Jean-Philippe Rameau
  • RCT 56 – Samson (tragédie en musique) (partially performed in 1734)
  • RCT 46 – Linus (tragédie en musique) (1752, score stolen after a rehearsal)
  • RCT 47 – Lysis et Délie (pastorale) (scheduled on November 6, 1753)

Incidental music for opéras comiques
Music mostly lost.

  • RCT 36 – L’endriague (in 3 acts, 1723)
  • RCT 37 – L’enrôlement d’Arlequin (in 1 act, 1726)
  • RCT 55 – La robe de dissension or Le faux prodige (in 2 acts, 1726)
  • RCT 55bis – La rose or Les jardins de l’Hymen (in a prologue and 1 act, 1744)

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