Rode, Jacques Pierre Joseph



Celebrated French violinist and composer; born at Bordeaux; studied there under Fauvel, and under Dacosta and Gervais. He became a pupil of the famous Viotti at Paris, whose thirteenth concerto M. Rode played at his debut in 1790. The same year he was appointed leader of the second violins at the Theatre Feydeau, although only sixteen years of age. Four years later he gave up this post to travel in concert, and after touring in Holland and Germany, was shipwrecked on a voyage from Hamburg to Bordeaux, and compelled to land in England. While there he played at a concert in London, but, rousing no enthusiasm there, returned to the Continent, where his playing met with warm appreciation. For some time he was solo violinist at the Grand Opera in Paris, and was later offered the professorship of vio- lin in the Conservatory, just then organized. On a visit to Spain in 1799 he made the acquaintance of Bpccherini, who assisted him in scoring his concertos for orchestra, a branch of musical training in which Rode's education seems to have been deficient. In 1800 he became solo violinist to Napoleon I. A restlessness of disposition urged him to go to Russia in 1803. In 1808 he returned to Paris. In 1811 he began extended tours through Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which continued up to 1814, when he settled temporarily in Berlin, where he married- and returned to Bordeaux. About this time Beethoven met him and wrote a composition for him. After Rode's retirement to Bordeaux he attempted one more appearance in concert in Paris, in 1828. He had reached the age of fifty-four, and his unfitness for public performance was but too evident not only to the public but to Rode himself. This last failure seems to have broken his heart; his health and spirits both sank, and late in the year 1830 he died after a prolonged illness at his country-house near Chateau Bourbon.


Rode is considered the most distinguished of Viotti's pupils, reproducing his master's style, and infusing into it a still greater charm. The nobility and expressiveness remarked in his playing may also be noticed in his compositions; both reveal the soul of an artist with whom musical expression was the end and technic only a means. While melodious and stately, his violin works betray a lack of constructive skill due, probably, to a too limited knowledge of musical theory; nevertheless, his twenty-four caprices take high rank as violin studies, being held essential to a complete training for that instrument. His A minor concerto is still played in concert by virtuosos. There are also twelve other concertos; variations for violin and orchestra, and for violin and string quartet; violin duets; string quartets; a set of twelve etudes; fantasia for violin with orchestra; and some songs. His violin method, published in collaboration with Kreutzer and Baillot, became a standard text-book at the Paris Conservatory. His influence was greater as a player than a teacher, but two of his pupils, Bohm, who was Joachim's teacher, and Eduard Rietz, the intimate friend of Mendelssohn, are well known to musical history.