French composer, organist and music theoretician, born in Dijon in 1683. Rameau got his musical education from his father, who was an organist at the Cathedral of Dijon. After a short stay in Italy in 1701, he became organist in several churches throughout France, including the Clermont Cathedral. In 1722, when he had already gained certain recognition, he settled in Paris where he would live till his death in 1764. From 1727 till 1753 Rameau was under patronage of the rich banker De La Pouplinière and his wife. He led Pouplinière's private orchestra for twenty-two years, a post in which he met the poets Simon Joseph de Pellegrin and Voltaire, who would both write him opera librettos. Rameau’s music was widely appreciated, also at the Royal Court: in 1745 Louis XV appointed him Compositeur de la Musique de la Chambre ("royal chamber music composer").

The fact that Rameau had an explicit musical opinion often brought him into polemical situations. From 1752 to 1754 the Querelle des Bouffons ("War of the Comedians") took place, with on one side Rameau and his adherents, who preferred pure French opera, and on the other side those who preferred Italian buffo-elements. In his last years Rameau engaged in a polemic with d'Alembert and Rousseau, who disassociated themselves from his harmonic theories.

Rameau’s compositions for harpsichord, chamber music, operas and ballets were all of great influence on French composition. His compositions for harpsichord were published in three volumes, called the Pièces de Clavecin (1706, 1724, and 1727). These are small-scaled compositions, with cheerful melodies and delicate rhythms, typically rococo. Like other harpsichordists, Rameau avoided complicated harmonic structures, which maintained the sonority. The minuet plays an important part, apart from the rondos, improvised preludes and themes with variations. His chamber music is represented by the Pièces de Clavecin en Concerts (1741). They are compositions for harpsichord, violin, flute and gamba.

Rameau remained famous especially for his instrumental works. As an organist he wrote a few cantatas and motets, but these are mostly forgotten. Even though his operas had great success while Rameau was still alive, after his death they were rarely performed anymore. In a way they show much significance to operas of Lully: with a prologue and five acts, mythological topics, and a prominent place for choirs and ballet. Certain Italian influences are however also noticeable, such as the position of the music above the text. His overtures, initially apart from the opera itself, were later merged with the composition in its entirety. In his rich orchestration - with always a key role for the orchestra - he introduced clarinet and horn.

Traité de l’harmonie réduite à ses principes naturels ("Treatise on Harmony") (1722) established Rameau’s reputation as a theoretician. Till the beginning of the twentieth century, his theories were of influence on the theory of harmony and tonality principles. Rameau attached importance to harmony rather than melody. From the dominant tone of a corps sonore (loose string) he derived a major triad, from the lower harmonic tone a minor triad. He analyzed sixth chords as reversals of the triad, and he advocated the even temperament of the harpsichord for free modulation.


  1. Hippolyte et Aricie (1733, rev. 1742)
  2. Les Indes galantes(1735)
  3. Castor et Pollux (1737)
  4. Dardanus (1739, rev. 1744 and 1760)
  5. Le Temple de la gloire (1745)
  6. Nais (1748)
  7. Zoroastre (1749)
  8. Acante et Céphise (1751)
  9. Daphne et Eglé (1753)
  10. Lysis et Delia (1754)
  11. La Naissance d'Osiris (1754)
  12. Zéphire (1757)
  13. Nélée et Mithis (1757)
  14. Le Retour d'Astrée (1757)
  15. Les Sybarites (1760)
  16. Les Paladins (1760)
  17. Les Boréades (Abaris) (1763)


  1. Les Fêtes d'Hebé (1739)
  2. Les Fêtes de Polymnie (1745)
  3. La Princesse de Navarre (1745)
  4. Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour (1747)
  5. Zais (1748)
  6. Les Surprises de l'Amour (1748)
  7. Pygmalion (1748)
  8. Platée (1749)
  9. La guirlande (1751)
  10. Anacréon (1757)

Cantatas and sacred works

  1. Thétis (1718)
  2. Aquilon et Orinthié (1719)
  3. Les Amants trahis (1721)
  4. Orphée (1721)
  5. L'Impatience (1715-22)
  6. Le Berger fidèle (1728)
  7. Pour la fête de St-Louis (1740)
  8. Deus Noster Refugium (before 1716)
  9. In Convertendo (1718)
  10. Quam dilecta (c. 1720)

Chamber music

  1. 5 Pièces de clavecin en concert (1741)
  2. 5 Concerts for harpichord, violin, flute. (1741)


(published in three volumes of suites in Rameau's lifetime):
  1. Prelude
  2. Allemande 1
  3. Allemande 2
  4. Courante
  5. Gigue
  6. Sarabande 1
  7. Sarabande 2
  8. La Vénétienne
  9. Gavotte
  10. Menuet
  11. Menuet en rondeau
  12. Allemande
  13. Courante
  14. Gigue en rondeau
  15. 2nd Gigue en rondeau
  16. Le Rappel des oiseaux
  17. Rigaudon 1
  18. Rigaudon 2
  19. Double
  20. Musette en rondeau
  21. Tambourin
  22. La Villageoise (rondeau)
  23. Les Tendres Plaintes (rondeau)
  24. Les Niais de Sologne
  25. Doubles 1 des Niais
  26. Doubles 2 des Niais
  27. Les Soupirs
  28. La Joyeuse
  29. L'Ollette (rondeau)
  30. L'Entretien des Muses
  31. Les Tourbillons (rondeau)
  32. Les Cyclopes (rondeau)
  33. Le Lardon (menuet)
  34. La Boiteuse
  35. Allemande
  36. Courante
  37. Sarabande
  38. Les Trois Mains
  39. Fanfarinette
  40. La Triomphante
  41. Gavotte (with 6 doubles)
  42. Les Tricotets (rondeau)
  43. L'Indifférente
  44. Menuet 1
  45. Menuet 2
  46. La Poule
  47. Les Triolets
  48. Les Sauvages
  49. L'Enharmonique
  50. L'Egyptienne
  51. La Dauphine
  52. La Laivri (rondeau)
  53. L'Agaçante
  54. La Timide (rondeau)
  55. L'Indiscrète (rondeau)

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