In This Article Jean-Philippe Rameau

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Editions
  • Biographical Studies
  • Harpsichord Music
  • Compositions in Other Genres
  • Historical Reception

Music Jean-Philippe Rameau
by
Charles Dill
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0042

Introduction

Jean-Philippe Rameau (b. 1683–d. 1764) was trained as a keyboardist. Most of his early career was as a church organist; his best-known job was at Dijon. Rameau continued to compose, publish, and perform keyboard music after moving to Paris in 1722, but from that point on his principal interests became opera and music theory. As an opera composer, Rameau’s output included five tragédies en musique (lyric tragedies)—one not performed until after his death and two additional ones never completed—and twenty-four operas in lighter genres. His operas were revived continuously until the Revolution, when French tastes changed substantially, and musicians and critics acknowledged their importance well into the early years of the 20th century, when a full-scale revival of interest in his works took place. From 1722 on, Rameau was also known as a music theorist. Using the harmonic series as his basis, he conceived harmonic function in terms of a fundamental bass, which allowed him to develop ideas of triadic inversion, along with assigned functions like tonic, subdominant, and dominant.

Reference Works

Although Rameau has not enjoyed the extended treatment some of his contemporaries have received, recent decades have seen a rapid growth in large-scale projects dedicated to him, partly in response to celebrations of the tercentennial of his birth in 1983 and the 250th anniversary of his death in 2014. La Gorce 1987 is the most concentrated of the earlier efforts, but articles from this period can be found throughout the present bibliography. Foster 1989, which took care to provide an up-to-date summary of research, is an outgrowth of this renewed interest in Rameau and provides a valuable picture of research prior to and during this time and during the late 1980s. As is often the case with celebrations of composers, the period also saw calls for an improved scholarly apparatus, of which Bouissou and Herlin 2003– and Bouissou and Denécheau 2016 are direct results. (For similar results, see Editions.) These recent efforts can justifiably be regarded as catalysts of a revolution in Rameau scholarship, stimulating the new and current ideas found in source, diplomatic, and textual criticism. Sadler 2014 and Bouissou, et al. 2016 are the first major products of the 2014 anniversary.

  • Bouissou, Sylvie, and Pascal Denécheau. “Les copistes de musique en France à l’epoque de Rameau.” In Rameau entre art et science. Edited by Sylvie Bouissou, Graham Sadler, and Solveig Serre, 215–254. Études et rencontres de l’École des chartes 47. Paris: École des Chartes, 2016.

    E-mail Citation »

    Basic to a diplomatic study of Rameau’s sources is understanding the legion of usually anonymous 18th-century copyists active in producing them. This richly documented essay provides a methodology for tracking copyists and categorizes their work for identification and improved study.

  • Bouissou, Sylvie, and Denis Herlin, eds. Jean-Philippe Rameau: Catalogue thématique des oeuvres musicales. 5 vols. Collection Sciences de la Musique. Paris: CNRS Éditions, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2003–.

    E-mail Citation »

    The critical catalogue of Rameau’s works, prepared in the context of Bouissou 1996– (cited under Editions). Volume 1 is devoted to nondramatic music and Volume 2 to librettos and literary sources; Volumes 3 and 4 will be devoted to dramatic works; and Volume 5 to bibliographic resources and an index.

  • Bouissou, Sylvie, Graham Sadler, and Solveig Serre, eds. Rameau entre art et science. Papers presented at a conference held in Paris, 20–22 March 2014. Études et rencontres de l’École des chartes 47. Paris: École des Chartes, 2016.

    E-mail Citation »

    Essays from a conference celebrating the third centenary of Rameau’s death, with essays covering his early career, sources, style, theoretical background, and performance practice. The authors include the most important Rameau scholars and French Baroque specialists of the early 21st century. Especially important for the strong showing of recent French scholarship.

  • Foster, Donald H. Jean-Philippe Rameau: A Guide to Research. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 895. New York: Garland, 1989.

    E-mail Citation »

    A meticulous, comprehensive, and generously annotated bibliography. Its only flaw is the inevitable one: a considerable amount of research has subsequently been published, during a period in which the nature of Rameau research has changed dramatically. Still repays consultation.

  • la Gorce, Jérôme de, ed. Jean-Philippe Rameau: Colloque international organisé par la Société Rameau, Dijon, 21–24 septembre 1983. Paris: Champion, 1987.

    E-mail Citation »

    Essays from a conference celebrating the third centenary of Rameau’s birth, with essays covering his early career, sources, style, theoretical background, and performance practice. The authors include the most important Rameau scholars and French Baroque specialists of the 20th century.

  • Sadler, Graham. The Rameau Compendium. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2014.

    E-mail Citation »

    A dictionary of information pertaining to Rameau, this includes individuals, works, cities, ideas, and information on theaters and on the music itself. Richly documented. It also includes a short biography, an up-to-date works list, and a substantial bibliography.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Article

Up

Down