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A Night At The Symphony: Jean-Philippe Rameau's Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts

Updated on October 29, 2013
The Bust of Jean-Baptiste Lully
The Bust of Jean-Baptiste Lully

"...the Prince of French musicians...the inventor of that beautiful and grand French Music..." Titon du Tillet's on Lully located on the engraving "Mount Parnassas"

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Jean-Baptiste Lully was born in Florentine Italy on the 28th of November 1632 and died 22nd of March 1687.

Lully moved to France early on in his career and put behind him Italian music theory from the Early Baroque Era to create a new sound in France during the Middle Baroque Era.

He worked primarily under Louis XIV and became known as the master of French Baroque.

His greatest achievement in France was the creation of the French Overture which was used throughout the Middle and Late Baroque Era's and into the Classical Era by composers as famous as Bach and Handel.

Titon du Tillet portrayed Lully in his famous engraving "Mount Parnassas."

So why bring up Lully in a discussion of Jean-Philippe Rameau? Rameau put most of his energy into music theory and gained his fame as a theorist. His theories moved the music of the Middle Baroque into a different direction than Lully.

As we shall see there were two schools of thought the Lullyistes and the Rameauneuns, both parties fought for their use of music theory for over a decade in what I call the "Battle of the Pamphlets."

Lully had been publishing his musical theory and had been the primary source of Telemann's musical education. Rameau also published two treatise's on music theory and later Telemann began to publish his pamphlet "The Faithful Music Master."

The spread of printed theory began to solidify the aesthetics behind composition and the basic music theory that is taught today.

Jean-Philip Rameau
Jean-Philip Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau was born in France on the 25th of September 1683 and died on the 12th of September 1764.

He replaced Lully as the dominant composer of the French Opera and began a lengthy argument with Lully over musical theory.

In 1706 he composed his Pieces de Clavecin Concerts which is his earliest known work. This piece of composition introduced what was called Mondonville or a composition where the Harpsichord not only fulfills the requirements of the Basso Continuo but plays an equal part in the melody with the Viol and Violin.

Rameua was more interested in publishing his musical theory than composing even though he had quite a prolific career as composer.

In 1722 he published his Treatise on Harmony and in 1726 he published his "Nouveau Systeme de Musique Theorique" or his "New System of Musical Theory."

Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau

Treatise on Harmony

Rameau's Treatise on Harmony was published in 1722 by Jean-Baptiste Christophe Ballard.

The work instantly became a revolution in musical theory. Rameau used a mixture of mathematics, analysis, structure, principles, and his own philosophy.

He was titled the "Isaac Newton on Music" due to the success of this publication. The foundation of the work is still in practice today.

Treatise on Harmony used major and minor keys to teach the practice of good music according to Rameau. His teaching style was based primarily on the 12 tone music scale.

The book is broken down into four separate books:

I - Harmonic Ratios

II - Chords

III - Composition

IV - Accompaniment

As a musician studying theory one would encounter portions of Rameau's book in the texts of today.

A Statue of Jean-Philippe Rameau located in Paris
A Statue of Jean-Philippe Rameau located in Paris

Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts

Rameau's Pieces de Clavecin in Concerts is his earliest known work and exhibits Mondonville, as described above.

We see that the melodic nature of the piece is shared equally between the Harpsichord, the Viol, and Violin.

Mondonville is also heard in some of Bach's early works.

Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts is broken up into five concerts:

1. The Premiere in C Minor

2. The Dexienne in G Major

3. The Troisienne in A Major

4. The Quatrienne in B Flat Major

5. The Cinquienne in D Minor

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed Pieces de Clavecin en Concerto and now have a better understanding of the roles of Lully and Rameau in the music of the Middle Baroque Era and the music of today.

I strongly suggest attending a live Symphony performance of any works of the above composers.

Actually, just get out and go the the Symphony and support your local musicians.


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    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      Good morning, I love Baroque Music and doing research both of these things relax me and I need relaxation in my busy life.

      Reno really is lacking in culture, we do have a Symphony and the University Music Department has some great performances, but it could be a little better. I sang in the Reno Symphonic Choir for a couple of years and have studied piano and music theory when growing up but have not earned the Title of Head Musicologist. (Snappy Title)

      Anyways, it is early and I am rambling. I do love all things beautiful and find this to be my search to find answers and the motivation to create beauty of my own.


    • Max Havlick profile image

      Max Havlick 4 years ago from Villa Park, Illinois

      Hey, what have we here?? A closet Professor of Musicological Historiography? Wow! Where have you been hiding, Jamie? Presumably behind that harsicord over there with all the music history and theory books stacked beside it.

      Wait a minute! Harpsicord mondovilles in Reno, Nevada? Do successful divorce lawyers really take their wives and girl-friends to listen to such things? Or worse yet, let them play violins and violas in local Baroque concerts? If they do, maybe the world is getting to be a better place after all, in spite of everything people do to gum it up (present company excepted, of course!).

      Thanks for direct access to Lully's "Acis and Galatee" and Rameau's "Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts no. 5 in D minor," both of which I listened to with delight after you explained their different evolving styles. It is extremely unlikely I would ever have had such an opportunity otherwise. This, my friend, is how cultural history should be taught! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      Max, Friday, Oct. 25, 2013

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you Faith Reaper I hope you have a great weekend. Jamie

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Jamie, I truly enjoyed Pieces de Clavecin en Concerto and I now do have a better understanding of the roles of Lully and Rameau in the music of the Middle Baroque Era and the music today.

      I have been to a couple of Symphony performances a long time ago. I think that is important to support local musicians. My son plays the guitar and piano, but alas, he is so busy working to provide for his three children, he does not have much time to enjoy playing. He is gifted and could make it a musician, I truly believe.

      Thank you for this beautiful hub and education here.

      Up and more and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      Thanks Kim it is good to hear that I have a fan base forming. Jamie

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 4 years ago from North Carolina


      Both of my sons are musicians, and the youngest plays regularly at a local place in town. Thus, I really appreciate your hubs regarding music.

      I have been sharing the information you have been providing with them.

      So, you have a number of fans in just one household.

      : ) Kim