Jean-François Dandrieu

Jean-François Dandrieu


• ca1682 1739

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Jean-François Dandrieu, though largely forgotten today, was regarded as one of the finest composers of harpsichord music of his time, generally ranked just below Couperin and Rameau. He also produced much worthy chamber music, but only one rather insignificant piece for orchestra. If ever a composer's output were worthy of greater attention -- indeed, of a full-scale revival -- it is that of Dandrieu. Though his date of birth is not known, documentary evidence places it between September 11, 1681, and January 17, 1682. He came from a well-to-do family and showed rare musical talent in his early childhood. Before the age of 5, he gave a harpsichord concert for Princess Palatine Elisabeth-Charlotte of Bavaria and other royalty. His first teacher was composer and keyboard player Jean-Baptiste Moreau.

In July 1705, Dandrieu was formally installed as organist at St. Merry Church in Paris, a post he had already held, in effect, for a year-and-a-half and one he would retain until his death in 1738. By the time he had secured this enviable position, he was already an accomplished composer, having produced music since his teens: he dedicated a volume of sonatas to Elisabeth-Charlotte when he was just 14 years old.

In 1705 he produced his first important collection of chamber works, the Livre de sonates en trio, Op. 1. This, along with Livre de sonates, Op. 2, from 1710, divulges the composer's uncanny contrapuntal skills and overall craft in the chamber music realm. Several large collections of works for harpsichord followed in the period 1710-1720, including Pièces de clavecin courtes et faciles de quatre tons différents. Dandrieu often revised works from these and other collections: some of the pieces from Opp. 1 and 2, for example, would show up as transcriptions in Livre de pièces d'orgue, completed just before his death.

In 1721 Dandrieu secured his most prestigious post when he was installed as one of the organists at the royal chapel. Twelve years later he added yet another organist post to the two he already held, when he succeeded his uncle, organist at St. Barthelemy, upon the latter's death in 1733. It is likely that the busy Dandrieu delegated some of his duties at St. Merry, and then later at St. Barthelemy to another, perhaps to his sister, who was also a talented keyboard player. Dandrieu, who never married, died on January 17, 1738.