Philidor, Andrew

, an eminent musician and chess-player, born at Dreuxin 1726, was descended from a long line of musical ancestors, who, in different branches of the art, had been attached to the court ever since the time of Louis XIII. The family-name was Danican; and it is pretended that this monarch, himself a dilettante musician, occasioned the surname of Philidor, a famous performer on the hautbois, whom this prince had heard in his progress through France, to be given to Danican, whose instrument being the hautbois, when the king heard him perform, he cried out, “Here’s anotuer Philidor!Andrew was educated as a page or chorister in the chapelroyal, under Citmpra, and in 1737 he produced his first anthem, which was performed in the chapel, and complimented by the king as an extraordinary production for a | child of eleven years old. On his change of voice, and quitting the chapel, he established himselt at Paris, where he subsisted by a few scholars, and by copying music; but every year he went to Versailles with a new motet.

The progress which he had made at chess awakened in him a desire to travel, in order to try his fortune; and in 1745 he set out for Holland, England, Germany, &c. In these voyages he formed his taste in music upon the best Italian models. In 1753 he tried his strength as a musical composer in London, by new setting Dryden’s ode on St. Cecilia’s day. Handel is said, by his biographer, to have found his chorusses well written, but discovered a want of taste in his airs. As his time was more occupied by chess than music, he printed in London, by a large subscription, in 1749, his “Analysis of the Game of Chess.” In 1754 he returned to Paris, in the month of November, and devoted his whole time to music. He had his “Laudaj Jerusalem” performed at Versailles; but it was found to be too Italian; and as the queen of Louis XV. disliked that style of music in the church, his hopes of obtaining, by this composition, a place of m<rftre de chapelle, were frustrated.

In 1757 he composed an act of a serious opera; but Ribel, opera-manager, would not let it be performed, telling him that he would have no airs introduced in the scenes of that theatre. From this time, however, to 1779, he composed various operas for the French stage, that were much approved. In the last-mentioned year, he composed, in London, “The Carmen Seculare,” of Horace,“in the conduct of which, Philidor placed himself under the guidance of Baretti. The performance was attended, at Freemasons’ Hall, by all persons of learning and talents, in expectation of a revival of the music of the ancients, and, by many, of its miraculous powers. To wh,it kind of music the” Carmen Seculare" was performed at Rome, we pretend not to say; but in London, adds Dr. Burney, we could trace the composer’s models for the chorusses in the oratorios of Handel, and the operas of Rameau; and for the airs, in his own comic operas, and the favourite melodies then in vogue in that theatre, many of which, with Italian words and Italian singing, particularly those of Gretry, would he elegant and pleasing music any where. Philidor, however, in setting the secular ode, it must be confessed, manifested his knowledge of counterpoint in the style of the old masters; and that, in spite of chess, he | had found time for the serious study of music. We believe that no one found himself much the wiser concerning the music of the ancients, after hearing this music performed to Latin words, than after hearing an oratorio of Handel, or an opera of Rameau. For the last two months of his life, he was kept alive merely by art, and the kind attentions of an old and worthy friend. To the last moment of his existence he enjoyed, though near seventy years of age, a strong retentive memory, which had long rendered him remarkable in the circle of his acquaintance in this capital. Mr. Philidor was a member of the chess-club riear 30 years; and was a man of those meek qualities that rendered him not less esteemed as a companion than admired for his extraordinary skill in the intricate and arduous game of chess, fpr which he was pre-eminently distinguished. Not two months before his death he played two games blindfold, at the same time, against two excellent chess-players, and was declared the conqueror. What seemed most to have shook the poor old man’s constitution, and to have precipitated his exit, was the not being able to procure a passport to return to France to visit his family, who were living there, before he paid the last debt of nature. But this refusal was rendered more bitter, on its being intimated that he was a suspected character, and had been one of those persons denounced by a committee of French informers. From the moment he was made acquainted with this circumstance, he became the martyr of grief: his philosophy forsook him; his tears incessantly flowed; and he sunk into the grave without a groan, oil the 3 1st of August, 1795. 1

1

Burney, in Rees’s Cyclopædia.—Account in the last edition of this Dictionary.