Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/82

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70

��RAMEAtJ.

��most remarkable in his case is that he succeeded in lines which are generally opposed to each other, and throughout life occupied the first rank not only as a theorist, but as a player and composer. Just when his 'Traitd de ^'Har- monic ' was beginning to attract attention he arranged to make music for the ^ little pieces which his fellow-countryman, Alexis Piron, was writing for the Theatre de la Foire, and^ ac- cordingly, on Feb. 3, 1723, they produced 'L'En- driague,' in 3 act?, with dances, divertissements, and grand airs, as stated in the title. In Jan. 1724 he obtained the privilege of publishing his cantatas, and various instrumental com- positions, amongst others his * Pieces de clavecin, avec une Me'thode pour la mecanique des doigts,' etc., republished as 'Pieces de Clavecin, avec une table pour les agreements' x (Paris, 1731 and 1736, oblong folio).

As the favourite music-master among ladies of rank, and organist of the church of Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie, Eameau's position and pro- spects now warranted his taking a wife, and on Feb. 25, 1726, he was united to Marie Louise Mangot, a good musician with a pretty voice. The disparity of their ages was considerable, the bride being only 1 8, but her loving and gentle disposition made the marriage a very happy one.

A few days later, on Feb. 29, Rameau pro- duced at the Theatre de la Foire a i-act piece called L'Enr61ement d'Arlequin,' followed in the autumn by 'Le faux Prodigue,' 2 acts, both written by Piron. Such small comic pieces as these were obviously composed, by a man of his age and attainments (he was now 42), solely with the view of gaining access to a stage of higher rank, but there was no hope of admission to the theatre of the Acade'mie without a good libretto, and this it was as difficult for a be- ginner to obtain then as it is now. There is a remarkable letter still extant from Rameau to Houdar de Lamotte, dated Oct. 1727, asking him for a lyric tragedy, and assuring him that he was no novice, but one who had mastered the ' art of concealing his art.' The blind poet refused his request, but aid came from another quarter. La Popeliniere, the fermier giniral, musician, poet, and artist, whose houses in Paris and at Passy were frequented by the most celebrated artists French and foreign, had chosen Rameau as his clavecinist and conductor of the music at his fetes, and before long placed at his disposal the organ in his chapel, his orchestra, and his theatre. He did more, for through his influence Rameau obtained from Voltaire the lyric tragedy of 'Samson,' which he promptly set to music, though the performance was pro- hibited on the eve of its representation at the Academic an exceptional stroke of ill-fortune. At last the Abbe Pellegrin agreed to furnish him with an opera in 5 acts, 'Hippolyte et Aricie,' founded on Racine's 'Phedre.' He compelled Rameau to sign a bill for 500 livres as security in case the opera failed, but showed

1 Both F^tis and Pougin have fallen into the mistake of considering this a separate work.

��RAMEAU.

more sagacity and more heart than might have been expected from one

Qul dlnait de 1'artel et soupait du tl:e"atre, Ee matin catholique et 13 soir idolatn ,-

for he was so delighted with the music on its first performance at La Popeliniere's, that he tore up the bill at the end of the first act. The world in general was less enthusiastic, and after having overcome the ill-will or stupidity of the performers, Rameau had to encounter the astonish- ment of the crowd, the prejudices of routine, and the jealousy of his brother artists. Campra alone recognised his genius, and it is to his honour that when questioned by the Prince de Conti on the subject, he replied, ' There is stuff enough in Hippolyte et Aricie for ten operas ; this man will eclipse us all.'

The opera was produced at the Acade'mie on Oct. i, 1733. Rameau was then turned 50 years of age, and the outcry with which his work was greeted suggested to him that he had possibly mistaken his career ; for a time he con- templated retiring from the theatre, but was reassured by seeing his hearers gradually accus- toming themselves to the novelties which at first shocked them. The success of 'Les Indes galantes' (Aug. 23, 1735), of 'Castor et Pollux,' his master- piece (Oct. 24, 1737), and of 'Les Fetes d'H^be" (May 21, 1739), however, neither disarmed his critics, nor prevented Rousseau from making him- self the mouthpiece of those who cried up Lully at the expense of the new composer. But Rameau was too well aware of the cost of success to be hurt by epigrams, especially when he found that he could count both on the applause of the multitude, and the genuine appreciation of the more enlightened.

His industry was immense, as the following list of his operas and ballets produced at the Acade'mie in 20 years will show :

��Dardanus, 5 acts and prologue (Nov. 19. 1739).

Les Fetes de Polymnie, 3 acts and prologue (Oct. 12, 1745).

Le Temple de la Gloire, Fete, in 3 acts and prologue (Dec. 7, 1745).

Zais, 4 acts and prologue (Feb. 29, 1748).

Pygmalion, 1 act (Aug. 27, 1748).

les F6tes de 1'Hymen et de 1'Amour, 3 acts and prologue (Nov. 6. 1748).

��Plate'e, 3 acts and prologue (Feb. 4, 1749).

Nais, 3 acts and prologue (April 22, 1749).

Zoroastre, 5 acts (Dec. 5, 1749).

La Guirlande, ou les Fleurs ea- chantcSes, 1 act (Sept. 21, 1751).

Acanthe et Ce"phise, 3 acts (Nov. 18, 1751).

Les Surprises de 1'Amour, 3 acts (May 31, 1757).

Les Paladins. S acts (Feb. 12. 1760).

��Besides these, Rameau found time to write di- vertissements for 'Les Courses de TempeV a Pastoral (Theatre Fra^ais, Aug. 1734), and 'La Rose' (Theatre de la Foire, March, 1744), both by Piron. From 1 740 to 1 745 the director of the Opera gave him no employment, and in this interval he published his 'Nouvelles Suites de Pieces de clavecin' and his 'Pieces de clavecin en concerts avec un violon ou une flute' (1741), re- markable compositions which have been reprinted by Mme. Farrenc (' Le Tre'sor des Pianistes') and M. Poisot. He also accepted the post of conductor of the Ope'ra-Comique, of which Monnet 3 was

2 Who dined at the altar and supped at the theatre ; Catholic in the morning, and Idolater at night.

3 See Monnet's 'Supplement au Roman comique,' 51. This fact seems to have escaped all liameau's biographers.

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