Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work

Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work

Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work

Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work

Excerpt

My purpose in writing this book has been to draw the attention of music-lovers to the work and person of Rameau, so that they may acquaint themselves with that work, play it to themselves, if possible have it performed, enjoy it and lead others to enjoy it. His music enfolds a great wealth of beauty of the highest order which is almost unknown and certainly unexploited. The many quotations which I have given will, I trust, whet the reader's curiosity and send him to at least the vocal scores of what has been published in that form. For this is not an antiquarian study of some mediaeval polyphonist, but a signal to call people to a composer who needs only to be played to become alive and who, although he shows his full. stature only with orchestra, singers and stage, comes as readily alive on a keyboard, even without a voice, as Bach or Handel or Gluck, the majority of whose choral and dramatic works are most familiar in that medium.

Rameau's life has been, piecemeal, the subject of several studies, all of them earlier than 1918. To the articles by Michel Brenet and Lionel de la Laurencie, behind which stand the earlier researches of Henri Quittard, and to the masterly introductions by Charles Malherbe in Volumes I to XVI of the Œuvres complétes, this book is greatly indebted. His life and music, as a whole, have been surveyed in two small monographs, both published in 1908, by Louis Laloy and La Laurencie. More recently Jacques Gardien has produced an even slimmer book on the same subject. It is time that something on a larger scale was attempted.

In 1930 Paul-Marie Masson published his great volume on Rameau's operas. This basic study of the greater part of Rameau's output is a treasure to the musicologist and the well-informed Rameau enthusiast, but its plan and almost total lack of examples make it difficult for the music-lover who is neither. Yet its conclusion makes up the finest essay on Rameau's art and musical personality, judged as a whole, that has been written, and deserves separate publication. To anyone who wishes to live intelligently with Rameau's music, Masson must be a constant companion. His work is like gold bars lying in the vaults of the Bank of England; mine must be considered as a little of the small change in which they are eventually coined.

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