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Jean-Philippe Rameau 1683-1764


Avid reader of Zarlino, Kircher, and Descartes, as a youth Rameau set out to discover the laws of harmony for himself. His Traité de l'harmonie (1722) laid the foundation for a rational science of music, and his concept of the invertibility of triads--a stroke of genius by any measure--had great consequences for the teaching of theory. At first not received well in France, Rameau's ideas were introduced into Germany by Marpurg. Rameau was a first-rate composer as well as theorist, composing mainly operas but also sacred, harpsichord, and chamber works. In the "War of the Buffoons" of 1752 Rameau was a defender of the French opera style of Lully and Destouches as opposed to the opera buffa of Pergolesi. In later years, however, Rameau said that if he had it to do over again he would have gone to Italy and studied with Pergolesi.

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