© Portrait attribué à Joseph Aved / Domaine public
Jean-Philippe Rameau was born in Dijon on 24 or 25 September 1683. At the age of 18, following the example of his father, he decided to become a musician and left for Italy. He stayed there only a few months. From 1702, he played the organ successively in the cathedrals of Avignon, Clermont, Notre-Dame de Dijon, the Jacobin church in Lyon, the Jesuit noviciate and Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie in Paris, where he finally settled in 1722.
There, he met the tax farmer Le Riche de La Pouplinière, who became his patron for over a quarter of a century, housed him and entrusted him with the orchestra he had created and supported. Through him, Rameau met his first librettists, the Abbé Pellegrin and Voltaire, with whom he wrote Samson, an opera which was never performed and whose music was partially used in other works.
From then, and until 1757, lyrical tragedies, opera-ballets and pastoral works followed one another, sometimes at the rate of two or three a year. Rameau composed about thirty stage works. Besides Platée (1745), his most famous compositions are Hippolyte et Aricie (1733), which immediately propelled the composer among the stars of the French operatic stage, Les Indes galantes (1735), Castor et Pollux (1737), Dardanus (1739), Les Fêtes d'Hébé (1739), Les Fêtes de Polymnie (1745), Zoroastre (1749), Les Paladins (1757).
Rameau became the official musician of the Royal court: in 1745, he was appointed Composer of the King's Cabinet. At the age of eighty, he composed his last musical tragedy, Les Boréades, which was never performed during his lifetime.
Rameau also wrote many pieces for harpsichord, as well as an important collection of theoretical works (including his famous Treaty of Harmony), which caused him to enter at the end of his life in a fierce debate with Rousseau and d’Alembert. Known as the "Quarrel of the Comic Actors", this quarrel opposed the "King’s corner", or those favouring the French tradition, to the "Queen’s corner", or the supporters of Italian music. Rameau died in Paris on 12 September 1764.
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