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Harmonia Early Music

Music And Dance Together In Seventeenth-Century France

A composer who could coordinate more than just his fingers.

Three ballerinas perform a grand jete

Photo: Mindspillage

Three ballerinas perform a grand jete

The majority of Jacques Champion de Chambonnieres’ music consists of dance music for harpsichord with about half being courantes, a dance in a fast triple meter. Chambonnieres worked at the Parisian court during a time when all court members were expected to know how to dance. Ballet and opera were one in the same during the tenure of composer Jean Baptiste Lully. Chambonnieres first danced at court for Louis XIII and later with the king’s son Louis XIV, also would be known as the “Sun king.” The emphasis on dance at the French court probably explains why this occupies 85% of Chambonnieres’ output.
Another characteristic of French harpsichord music is the use of improvisation and ornamentation above what may be printed on the page. Karen Flint takes this tradition to heart in her 2010 recording of harpsichord pieces in Le pieces de Clavessin on the Plectra label.

Jacques Champion de Chambonnieres: Gigue in C
Karen Flint, harpsichord — Le Clavecin Francais: Les Pieces de Clavessin (Plectra, 2010)
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Jacques Champion de Chambonnieres: Courante in D
Karen Flint, harpsichord — Le Clavecin Francais: Les Pieces de Clavessin (Plectra, 2010)
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Anna Pranger

Anna Pranger moved to Bloomington in 2009 to pursue a degree in music librarianship. Before this, she worked on a degree in music history at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio. She serves as both an assistant producer for Harmonia and the Music Library Assistant for WFIU.

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  • Kittybriton KB

    Would this application of improvisation to embellish the music be related to the French tradition of organ improvisation? I would love to know more.

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