Rameau's first opera-ballet, Les Indes galantes (The courtly Indies) was first produced in 1735. Consisting of a prologue and 3 entrees (a fourth was added in 1736), each entree tells a love-story from a different part of the world:
1. Le Turc genereux (The generous Turk)
2. Les Incas de Perou (The Incas of Peru)
3. Les Fleurs (The Flowers)
4. Les Sauvages (The Savages)
Containing some wonderful music, Les Indes galantes was a huge contemporary success, and enjoys mcuh popularity today. The most impressive entree is probably Les Incas de Perou with its elaborate 'Feast of the Sun' set-piece. The added fourth entree, Les Sauvages, was based on the earlier Harpsichord piece of the same name.
Rameau\'s early training came from his father, a professional organist. He attended a Jesuit school, then had a short period of music study in Italy. In 1702 he was appointed maître de musique at Avignon Cathedral, but later in the same year he moved to Clermont Cathedral. By 1706 he had relocated to Paris to play as organist of the Jesuit college. He returned to Dijon in 1709 as organist at Notre Dame, a position he shared with another musician, but by 1713 he was in Lyons and in 1715 he was back in Clermont with a 29-year contract as organist. By 1722, however, he was in Paris, where he was to remain.
He had left Clermont to supervise the publication of his Traité de l\'harmonie, a substantial work which brought him much attention. It was also controversial, particularly as regards his new theory, based on his understanding of the physical properties of sound, about the relationship of bass to harmony. As a composer, he was known only for his keyboard music (a second collection appeared in 1729-30) and his cantatas, though he had also written some church music.
Rameau\'s ambitions, however, lay in opera; and at the age of 50, in 1733, he had his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, given at the Opéra. It aroused great excitement, admiration, bewilderment and (among the conservative part of the audience who saw no good in anything since Lully) disgust. It was relatively successful, as were the other operas that followed in the ensuing years; his opéra-ballet Les Indes galantes had 64 performances over two years, and the least successful Castor et Pollux, had an initial run of 21 performances.
Rameau had various patrons, notably the financier La Pouplinière. He moved in intellectual circles and counted Voltaire among his friends. In 1745 he was appointed a royal chamber music composer; thereafter several of his works had their premieres at court theatres. Nine new theatre works followed in the mid-late 1740s, beginning with La princesse de Navarre and the comedy Platée. From 1750 onwards only two major works were written, for Rameau was increasingly involved with theory and with a number of disputes, with Rousseau, Grimm and even former friends, pupils and collaborators such as Diderot and D\'Alembert. When Rameau died, in 1764, he was widely respected and admired though he was seen too as unsociable and avaricious.
MIDI FILE - "Tambourin" for keyboard (1\'24\'\')