Rameau, John Philip

, chevalier de St. Michel, composer to the king of France, and to l’Academic Royale de la Musique, or serious opera at Paris, was born at Dijon in 1683, He went early in his life to Italy, and at his return was appointed organist at Clermout en Auvergne, where his “Traite” de la Musique“was written, in 1722. He was afterwards elected organist of St. Croix de la Bretonnerie at Paris. Here his time was chiefly employed in teaching; however, he published harpsichord lessons, and several other theoretical works, without distinguishing himself much as a vocal composer, till 1733, when, at fifty years of age, he produced his first opera of” Hippolite et Aricie." The music of this drama excited professional envy and national discord. Party rage was now as violent between the admirers of Lulli and Rameau, as in England between the friends of Bononcini and Handel, or, in modern times, at Paris, between the Gluckists and the Piccinists. When the French, during the last century, were so contented with the music of Lulli, it was nearly as good as that of other countries, and better patronized and supported by the most splendid prince in Europe. But this nation, so frequently accused of more volatility and caprice than their neighbours, have manifested a steady persevering constancy in their music, which the strongest ridicule and contempt of other nations could never vanquish.

Rameau only answered his antagonists by new productions, which were still more successful; and, at length, he was acknowledged by his countrymen to be not only | superior to all competition at Paris, but sole monarch of the musical world. From 1733 to 1760 he composed twentyone operas, of which the “names and dates are annually published in the” Spectacles de Paris," and in many other periodical works, Rameau’s style of composition, which continued in favour almost unmolested for upwards of forty years, though formed upon that of Lulli, is more rich in harmony, and varied in melody. The genre, however displeasing to all ears but those of France, which had been nursed in it, was carried by the learning and genius of Rameau to its acme of perfection; and when that is achieved in any style, it becomes the business of subsequent composers to invent or adopt another, in which something is still left to be done, besides servile imitation.

The opera of “Castor and Pollux” having been long regarded in France as the master-piece of this composer, Dr. Burney has entered into a strict critical examination of it, for which we refer to his History. He concludes with observing, that, though the several merits of this musician have been too much magnified by partizans and patriots in France, and too much depreciated by the abettors of other systems and other styles, as well as patriots of other countries, yet Rameau was a great man; nor can the professor of any art or science mount to the summit of fame, and be elected by his countrymen supreme dictator in his particular faculty, without a large portion of genius and abilities.

The successful revival of his opera of tc Castor and Polluxin 1754, after the victory obtained by his friends over the Italian burletta singers who had raised such disturbance by their performance of Pergolesi’s intermezzo, the” Serva Padrona,“was regarded as the most glorious event of his life. The partizans for the national honour could never hear it often enough.” This beautiful opera,“says M. de la Borde,” without any diminution in the applause or pleasure of the audience, supported a hundred representations, charming at once the soul, heart, mind, eyes, ears, and imagination of all Paris."

From this sera to the time of his death, in 1767, at eighty-four years of age, Rameau’s glory was complete. The royal academy of music, who all regarded themselves as his children, performed a solemn service in the church of the oratory, at his funeral. And M. Philidor had a mass | performed at the church of the Carmelites, in honour of a man whose talents he so much revered. 1

1

Burney’s Hist, of Miiic and life of Rameau in Rees’s Cyclopedia.