Jean-Philippe Rameau (Dijon25 september 1683 – Parisseptember 12, 1764) was one of the most important Baroque composers in General, and of Frenchcomposers in particular. He was not only a harpsichordist and organistmusic teacher but is considered a very important music theorist whose influence continues to this day. In addition to Jean-Baptiste Lully was he as head representative of the Ancien Régime seen. Are bulky studied oeuvre is the basis for the functional harmony.


[hide]*1 early life

Life Course[Edit]Edit

The organist[Edit]Edit

Jean Rameau, Jean-Philippe's father, was organist at several churches in Dijon. His mother Claudine Demartinécourt was taken from the minor nobility. Jean-Philippe Rameau was the seventh of eleven children of the couple and of course got the first music lessons from his father. His younger brother Claude Rameau was also organist and played harpsichord and his sister Catherine Rameau was music teacher. The son of Claude Rameau, Jean-François, is by Denis Diderot 's novel Le neveu de Rameau from 1761 become unforgettable.

Jean-Philippe Rameau was a pupil at a Jesuitcollege, but had to leave because of poor grades. At the age of 18, he made a trip to Italy, which brought him no further than Milan .

[1]Traité de l'harmonie réduite à ses principles naturels, Paris, 1722

In January 1702 he was organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms in Avignon. In may 1702 he was also organist in Clermont-Ferrand and got a contract for six years. But already in 1706, he moved to Paris, where he collaborated with Louis Marchand . He published there also are Pièces de clavecin. To 1709 he was Titular organist at several churches in Paris. In 1709 he became successor of his father to the 13th-century Notre Dame church in Dijon. Also this contract gold originally for six years. But as early as 1713 we find him as organist in Lyon. In 1715 he departed again to Clermont-Ferrand and was organist until he moved to Paris in 1722.

In this period most of the secular and sacred choral music including grand motets he destined for a festive church service on the occasion of the conclusion of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). Organ music he would have composed at this time has not been preserved. Rameau's Pièces de clavecin first harpsichord book (Paris, 1706) gives a clear insight about his views on music for keyboards at this time. Even after his departure to Paris in 1722 and the first opera successes in the years-1730 to 1738 he organist, remains.

The theorist[Edit]Edit

In 1722 he published his Traité de l'harmonie réduite à ses principles naturels in Paris, that he's been in in Clermont-Ferrand, in Auvergne, had written. It is an important and influential work in the music theory that Rameau made famous in one fell swoop. Together with the additional Nouveau Système de musique theorique in 1726 explained the work the basis for the modern music theory for harmonyand agreement. He determined with «l'accord tonique» the Tonic for the triad that has become the base of classical music.

Five more music theory work were published until 1760, in which he the harmonic relations in building up the harmonic range develops. From 1752 to 1754, he defended French baroque opera and his thesis of the primacy of the harmony on the melody against the Encyclopedists in the so called buffonistenstrijd. Its relation to the circle of the Encyclopedists remains ambivalent, fierce debates with Jean-Jacques Rousseau stand next to the appreciation and admiration by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d'Alembert Baptist.

The opera[Edit]Edit

[2]Jean-Philippe Rameau with violin, by Joseph Aved (1702-1766)-Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon

The premiere of the opera Hippolyte et Aricie in 1733 was a turning point in his life. The opera was seen by his contemporaries as the most important genre. New compositions were very critically assessed. Rameau Teske-on the one hand, the form of the by Jean-Baptiste Lully created «Tragédie en musique» to follow, but on the other hand, the focus of the Act-carrying parties to the development of vocal solo Recitative, ensembles and instrumental scenes to shift. With his fame as a composer was also a solution to his financial problems.

Around 1727 he learned Alexandre Le Riche de la Pouplinière, the General steward (fermier général) of the King Louis XV of France common. He became the patron of Rameau and left him with his family in his palace in the rue de Richelieu live. Twelve years led the private Orchestra Rameau Le Riche de la Pouplinière. He was then able to gain valuable experience with instruments and with the ensemble experiment.

In 1752/1753 it came with the buffonistenstrijd (FrenchQuerelle des Bouffons) to a major break in Rameau's opera career. In the early 18th century it was found the Italian music and learned French music simple and natural. Rousseau on the other hand, pointed out the simplicity of the Italian music in front of the complexity of the French music with her full orchestration, complicated polyphony and harmonic settings. Rousseau has in his Lettre sur la musique française dismissed with French music, because "only the Italian language was adequate for the music" because they "soft, klankvol, harmonic and accented" sounded. Opposite the musical ideal of the French late Baroque have the Encyclopedists around Jean-Jacques Rousseau the ideals of the naturalness and melodic sing action. Le Riche de la Pouplinière chose the side of Rousseau and Rameau let fall.

The last years of Rameau's life stood in the sign of the cooperation with the dance theorist and encyclopaedist Louis de Cahusac, librettist. In his last works could Rameau the expression possibilities of the instrumental music increase even more.

Rameau was primarily an opera composer, which is around 35 working for the scene wrote. His ballet compositions have been enthusiastically received. During his years as an organist, he wrote a series of cantatas and motets. A further milestone in his oeuvre are the Pièces de clavecin and concerts and his Pièces de clavecin.


On 25 February 1726 he married at the age of 42 the only 19-year-old Marie-Louise Mangot, Member of a musical family. Marie-Louise later sang in several of Rameau's operas. Together they had two sons and two daughters.


Music Theatre[Edit]Edit


Completed in title acts Premiere libretto
1723 L'Endriague 3 acts 3 February1723Paris, Théâtre des marionnettes the Dolet Metro et La Place, Foire Saint-Germain Alexis Piron
1726 L'Enrôlement d'Arlequin 1 Act 3 February1726, Paris, Théâtre d'Honoré, Foire Saint-Germain Alexis Piron
1726 La Robe de dissension;

(or: Le Faux Prodige)

2 acts 7 september1726, Paris, Théâtre d'Honoré et Francisque, Foire Saint-Laurent Alexis Piron
1732 Samson 5 acts not implemented; lost Voltaire
1733Rev.1742 Hippolyte et Aricie 5 acts 1 October1733, Paris, Académie royale de musique;

revised version: 11 september 1742, Paris, Académie royale de musique

Abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin
1737 Castor et Pollux 5 acts 24 October1737, Paris, Académie royale de musique Pierre-Joseph Bernard "Gentil"
1739 Dardanus Prologue and 5 acts 19 november1739, Paris, Académie royale de musique Charles-Antoine Leclerc de La Bruère
1744 La Rose;

(or: Les Jardins de l'Hymen), (also: Les Fêtes de l'Hymen)

Prologue and 1 Act 5 March1744, Paris, Théâtre de l 'Opéra-Comique, Foire Saint-Germain Alexis Piron
1745 Platée;

(or: Junon jalouse)

Prologue and 3 acts 31 March1745, Versailles, Théâtre du château Jacques Autreau,

Rev. by Adrien-Joseph Le Valois d'Orville

1749 Zoroastre 5 acts 5 december1749, Paris, Académie royale de musique Louis de Cahusac
1751 Acanthe et was selected for a;

(or: La Sympathy)

Prologue and 3 acts 18 november1751, Paris, Académie royale de musique Jean-François Marmontel
1752 Linus 5 acts not run Charles-Antoine Leclerc de La Bruère
1753 Daphnis et Églé 1 Act 30 October1753Fontainebleau, Théâtre du château Charles Collé
1753 Lisis et Délie 1 Act not implemented; lost Jean-François Marmontel
1758 Le Procureur dupe sans le savoir 1 Act not implemented; lost anonymous
1760 Les Paladins 3 acts 12 February1760, Paris, Académie royale de musique Jean François Duplat de Monticourt,

After j. de La Fontaine: «Le petit chien qui secoue l'argent et des perrieres» and l. Ariosto: «Orlando furioso»

1763 Les Boréades 5 acts not run Louis de Cahusac


Completed in title acts Premiere libretto choreography


Les Indes galantes
    1. Le Turc généreux
    2. Les Incas du Pérou
    3. Les Fleurs
    4. Les Sauvages
Prologue and 4 entrées

(initially only the first 2)

23 August1735Paris, Académie royale de musique;

revised version: 10 March 1736, Paris, Académie royale de musique

Louis Fuzelier
1739 Les Fêtes d'Hébé;

(or: Les Talents lyriques)

    1. La Poésie
    2. La Musique
    3. La Danse
Prologue and 3 entrées 21 may1739, Paris, Académie royale de musique Antoine Gauthier the Montdorge
1745 La Princesse de Navare 3 acts 23 February1745Versailles, Théâtre du château Voltaire
1745 Les Fêtes de Polymnie
    1. Le Temple de Mémoire
    2. La Fable
    3. L'Histoire
    4. La Féérie
Prologue and 3 entrées 12 October1745, Paris, Académie royale de musique Louis de Cahusac


Le Temple de la gloire;
    1. Ndala Bélus et
    2. Bacchus
    3. Trajan
5 acts (originally);

Prologue and 3 acts

27 november1745, Versailles, Théâtre du château;

revised version: 19 april 1746, Paris, Académie royale de musique

1745 Les Fêtes de Ramire;

adapted from: La Princesse de Navarre

1 Act 22 december1745, Versailles, Théâtre de château Voltaire
1747 Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de L'Amour;

(or: Les Dieux d ' Égypte)

    1. Osiris
    2. Canope
    3. Aruéris ou Les Isiennes ou Les Isions
Prologue and 3 entrées 15 March1747, Paris, Académie royale de musique Louis de Cahusac
1748 Zaïs Prologue and 4 acts 29 February1748, Paris, Académie royale de musique Louis de Cahusac
1748 Pigmalion 1 Act 27 August1748, Paris, Académie royale de musique Ballot the Savot,

to Antoine Houdar de La Motte, «Le Triomphe des arts»

1749 Naïs Prologue and 3 acts 22 april1749, Paris, Académie royale de musique Louis de Cahusac
1751 La Guirlande;

(or: Les Fleurs enchantées

1 Act 21 september1751, Paris, Académie royale de musique Jean-François Marmontel
1753 Les Sibarites (original title: Sibaris) 1 Act 13 november1753, Fontainebleau, Théâtre du château Jean-François Marmontel
1754 Anacréon 1 Act 23 October1754, Fontainebleau, Théâtre du château Louis de Cahusac
1754 La Naissance d'Osiris ou La Fête Pamilie 1 Act 12 October1754, Fontainebleau, Théâtre du château Louis de Cahusac
1757 Les Surprises de l'amour
    1. Le Retour d ' astrée
    2. L'Enlévement d'Adonis (also: Vénus et Adonis)
    3. La Lyre enchantée
    4. Anacréon
Prologue and 3 acts 31 May1757, Paris, Académie royale de musique Pierre-Joseph Bernard
Nélée et Myrthis

(or: Les Beaux jours de l'amour)

not run anonymous
Io 1 Act; unfinished not run anonymous

(or: Les Nymphes de Diane)

not run anonymous

Secular cantatas[Edit]Edit

  • 1715-1718 Thétis (bass),
  • 1715-1719 Aquilon et Orithie (bass)
  • 1715-1722 L'impatience (soprano)
  • Les amants trahis 1721 (soprano, bass)
  • 1721 Orphée (soprano)
  • 1728 Le berger fidèle (soprano)


  • 1713-1715 Deus noster refugium (composed on the occasion of the conclusion of the Treaty of Utrecht)
  • 1713-1715 Quam dilecta (ditto)
  • In convertendo for 1720
  • for 1722 Laboravi (in the Traité de l'harmonie, 1722)
  • (authorship uncertain) Tilt to et Diligam Domine


  • 1706 Premier livre de pieces de clavecin
  • 1724 Pieces the clavessin avec une pour la mechanique des doigts method Tambourin [3](info / explanation)
  • 1729-1730 Nouvelles suites de pieces de clavecin [...] avec des remarques sur les différens genres de musique
  • 1736 Les Indes galantes, ballet, reduit à quatre grands concerts (contains also the original harpsichord piece Les Sauvages)

Theoretical works (selection)[Edit]Edit

  • Traité de l'harmonie reduite à ses principles naturels (Paris, 1722)
  • Nouveau système de musique théorique (Paris, 1726)
  • Dissertation sur les différentes méthodes d'accompagnement pour le clavecin, ou pour l'orgue (Paris, 1732)
  • Génération harmonique, ou Traité de musique théorique et pratique (Paris, 1737)
  • Mémoire où l'on expose les fondemens du Système de musique théorique et pratique de m. Rameau (1749)
  • Observations sur notre instinct pour la musique (Paris, 1754)
  • ' Origine des modes et du tempérament ', Mercure de France (June 1761)
  • Origine des sciences, suivie d'une controversy sur le même sujet (Paris, 1762)

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