J. C. de Chambonnières - Le fondateur de l'École française de clavecin


9 avr. 2008, 16h14m

Jacques Champion de Chambonnières (ca. 1601 - 1672) is considered the father of the French harpsichord school, a style of playing that reached its zenith in the works of François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau - and he was the first musician to hold the position of "Harpsichordist of the King".

To the pay of six hundred livres (pounds) he added, around 1650, a pension of one thousand crowns drawn on the royal treasury, which is an indication of the esteem he then enjoyed. He published two books of works for solo harpsichord in 1670, and a number of other pieces survive in various manuscripts. In addition to his activities as a composer Chambonnières was also an accomplished teacher; among his pupils were many of the most important players and composers of the time: the three Couperin brothers, Jaques Hardel, one of the Gautiers, Jean-Henri d'Anglebert, Nicolas Lebègue, Robert Cambert and Guillaume Gabriel Nivers.

Chambonnières showed the desire, never realized, to seek his fortune at the court of Queen Christina of Sweden. To this end, Constantijn Huygens was enlisted to pave the way for him there. Meanwhile, his current position at the French court was jeopardized by a nearly successful plot to force Chambonnières to resign in favor of his student Louis Couperin. The loyal refusal of Couperin to displace Chambonnières could only have sprung from high personal regard. In 1662 he finally found himself abruptly deprived of his pension. As a result he sold his post to his pupil d'Anglebert for 2000 pounds. Chambonnières held his engagements, but the services were covered by d'Anglebert; Chambonnières no longer appeared at court, in the concerts or the ballets.

Chambonnières was famous early quite in his life: Marin Mersenne, a French theologian, philosopher, mathematician and music theorist, often referred to as the "father of acoustics", described his playing as distinguished by delicacy and subtlety of touch, fleetness without display, and imaginative embellishment: "Each time he played a piece he mingled in new beauties ports de voix, passages and various ornaments, with doubles cadences".
A little later Mersenne praised him even more highly: "After listening to the harpsichord played by the Sieur de Chambonnières... I can only express my feeling by saying that one should hear nothing afterwards, whether one desires lovely melodies and fine accompanying parts mingled together, beauty of rhythm, fine touch or lightness and speed of hand... it can be said that this instrument has met its ultimate master."

The works of Chambonnières have been preserved for us in two engraved volumes and in several manuscripts. The Bauyn Manuscript (ca 1690) in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris is considered one of the most important sources of French keyboard music of the seventeenth century. This single source brings together 350 pieces, most written for the harpsichord, and is organized into three sections, the first consecrated entirely to Chambonnières, the second to Louis Couperin, and the third to various composers like Johann Jakob Froberger, Jaques Hardel and Henry Du Mont.


  • spagyricus

    the more we learn, the less we realise that we know. despite my fondess for pre-18th century music, i had never heard of Jacques Champion de Chambonnières. but i'm pleased to have been introduced! where did you obtain the information contained in this entry come from, just out of curiosity? and, if i may be so bold as to enquire, why do you choose to write your journal entries in english? ° °°m °°v ° k°° °

    10 avr. 2008, 14h54m
  • Epitymbidia

    It is, I have to admit, the mighty Wikipedia (as it is so way too often...) where I get lots of my informations from, in this case from the English, the French and the German page for Chambonnières. (Sometimes I use a bit of the Italian versions too, but that is mostly to complicated for my merely operatic understanding of that language...) Then I often have a look if the Encyclopedia Britannica could offer something of interest to me, but unfortunately my search there was this time quite unproductive and even somewhat fruitless... In addition I frequently use a lot of German sites about classical composers of all periods such as Klassika or the catalogue of classical composers. And of course I have also some [b]real books[/b]...

    16 avr. 2008, 10h34m
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