Philidor, François Andre Danican



Youngest son of the preceding, and the most celebrated of the family. Born at Dreux, and at six years of age became a page in the Royal Chapel at Versailles, where he received an excellent education in music from Campra. Went to Paris, where he became a music-teacher and copier; but, finding the work discouraging, turned to chess, which he had learned during his leisure hours at the chapel. He was remarkably skilled in this game, and in 1745 started on a triumphal tour, defeating the best players of Holland, Germany and England, and while at Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748, he wrote his Analyse de jeu d'echecs, which he published on going to London in 1 49. In 1754 he wrote ja motet, Lauda Jerusalem, in hope of becoming superintendent of the King's music. Failing, he turned to dramatic composition, and brought out the first of his twenty-one operas, most of which were played at the Theatre de la Foire, Saint Laurent, Diable a quatre, and La retour du printemps, in 1756. These failed, but his Blaise le Savetier, in 1759, was an immense success. L'huitre et les plaideurs; Le quiproquo, or Le volage fixe; Le soldat magicien; Le jardinier et son seigneur are all one-act plays. He then ventured on a two-act comedy, Le marechal ferrant. This made his name famous, but he returned to oneact pieces in Sancho Panga, and Le bucheron or Les trois Souhaits. Then came two of his best light operas, Le sorcier and Tom Jones. His first grand opera, and one of the first of the class in France, Ernelinde Princesse de Norvege, was given at the Opera, and revived in 1773 as Sandomir, Prince de Danemark. In 1768 Le Jardinier de Sidion was produced, and L'amant deguise, La rosiere de Salevey; La nouvelle ecole des femmes; Le bonfils; and Les femmes vengees followed. He went to England, where, on account of the Revolution, he was not allowed to return to Paris, and had to remain in London the last three years of his life. His grand operas, Persee, and Themistocle were not very successful. His last work, a grand opera, Belisaire, was finished by Berton. He also composed motets; quartets; L'art de la modulation; and Ariettes periodiques. He was one of the most learned musicians of his time, one of the founders of the modern French comic opera, and his compositions are considered superior to those of his rivals in originality, harmony and orchestration, but not so good in melody and dramatic excellence. His Le marechal was the first stage-piece to contain descriptive airs, and in Tom Jones he introduced for the first time an unaccompanied quartet.