Philidor (real name, Danican)

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Philidor (real name, Danican)

Philidor (real name, Danican), family of famous French musicians:

(1) Michel Danican; b. Dauphine, c. 1600; d. Paris, Aug. 1659. He is the earliest known member of the family, although he never used the name Philidor. He went to Paris about 1620. By 1651 he was in the service of King Louis XIII as a member of the grande ecurie (military band), in which he played the oboe, cromorne, and trompette marine.

(2) Jean Danican; b. probably in Dauphine, c. 1620; d. Versailles, Sept. 8,1679. He most likely was a younger brother or son of (1) Michel Danican. He adopted the name Philidor about 1659, and by 1657 he was in the royal service. In 1659 he became a phiphre marine. He was also a composer.

(3) André Danican Philidor (l’aîné), son of (2) Jean Danican; b. Versailles, c. 1647; d. Dreux, Aug. 11, 1730. In 1659 he entered the grande écurie, succeeding (1) Michel Danican, in which he played the cromorne, trompette marine, and drums. He subsequently played the oboe, bassoon, and bass cromorne in the royal chapel and chambre du roi. In 1684 King Louis XIV appointed him royal music librarian, a position he held until his death. During his long tenure, he acquired operas, ballets, sacred music, partbooks, etc. from various periods of French history for the collection. A large portion of this collection eventually passed to St. Michael’s Coll., Tenbury. It was sold at auction in London in 1978, and passed to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and the Bibliothèque Municipale in Versailles. The latter library already housed 35 vols, of the royal collection. The Paris Cons, library once housed 59 vols., but through various misfortunes its collection was reduced to 34 vols. Additional vols, are housed in other library collections. Philidor continued to serve as a musician in the royal chapel until 1722, and in the royal service until 1729. By his first wife he had 16 children, and by his second, 5. His most famous son was (7) François–André Danican Philidor.


dramatic: opéra–ballet: Le Canal de Versailles (Versailles, July 16, 1687); Le Manage de la couture avec la grosse Cathos (Versailles, 1687?); La Princesse de Crète (Marly, 1700?); La Mascarade du roi de la Chine (Marly, 1700); La Mascarade du vaisseau marchand (Marly, Feb. 18, 1700); La Mascarade de la noce village (Marly, 1700). instrumental: Various works, including dances, marches, etc.

(4) Jacques Danican Philidor (le cadet), son of (2) Jean Danican and younger brother of (3) André Danican Philidor (l’aîné); b. Paris, May 6,1657; d. Versailles, May 27,1708. In 1668 he became a phiphre in the grande ecurie, and subsequently played the cromorne and trompette marine. In 1683 he became a musicien ordinaire de la chapelle, and played the oboe and bassoon. In 1690 he became a member of the chambre du roi. He composed airs, dance music, and marches (only the last are extant). Of his 12 children, 4 became musicians.

(5) Anne Danican Philidor, son of (3) André Danican Philidor (l’aîné); b. Paris, April 11, 1681; d. there, Oct. 8, 1728. In 1698 he became an oboist in the grande écurie. In 1704 he became a member of the royal chapel, and in 1712 of the chambre du roi. He founded the famous Paris concert series known as the Concert Spirituel, which was launched on March 18,1725; it was disbanded in 1790. He also founded the short–lived Concerts Français (1727–33).


dramatic:L’Amour vainqueur, pastoral (Marly, Aug. 9,1697); Diane et Endymion, pastoral (Marly, 1698); Danae, opera (Marly, 1701). other: Mass, Te Deum, motets, and instrumental pieces.

(6) Pierre Danican Philidor, son of (4) Jacques Danican Philidor (le cadet); b. Paris, Aug. 22, 1681; d. there, Sept. 1, 1731. In 1697 he became a member of the grande écurie, in 1704 an oboist in the royal chapel, and in 1712 a flutist in the chambre du roi. A pastoral he composed in 1697 was given in Marly and Versailles. He also wrote 6 suites for Transverse Flutes (publ, in Paris, 1717–18), 6 suites for 3 Flutes, and Oboes or Violins (1718), and marches.

(7) François–André Danican Philidor, the greatest in the line of musicians in the family, the youngest son of (3) André Danican Philidor (l’aîné); b. Dreux, Sept. 7, 1726; d. London, Aug. 31, 1795. He was a page boy in the royal chapel in Versailles, where he studied music with the maître de chapelle, André Campra. It was also at that time that he learned to play chess. A motet by him was performed in the royal chapel when he was 12. In 1740 he went to Paris, where he supported himself by copying and teaching. His interest in chess continued, and he gained distinction as an outstanding player by defeating a number of celebrated chess masters of the day. He publ, a fundamental treatise on chess, LAnalyze des échecs (London, 1749; rev. ed., 1777, as Analyse du jeu des échecs), which appeared in more than 100 eds. and several translations. As a member of the St. James Chess Club in London, he gave lectures and demonstrations as a master; a famous chess opening was named after him. In the meantime, he began a successful career as a composer for the theater. His first success was Le Maréchal ferrant (Paris, Aug. 22, 1761), which was accorded numerous performances. His Le Sorcier (Paris, Jan. 2, 1764) was also a triumph. Although Tom Jones (Paris, Feb. 27, 1765) was an initial failure, it enjoyed great popularity after its libretto was revised by Sedaine and performed on Jan. 30,1766. The same fate attended his Ernelinde, princesse de Vorvège when it was first given at the Paris Opéra on Nov. 24,1767. It was subsequently revised by Sedaine and performed most successfully as Ernelinde in Versailles on Dec. 11,1773. Philidor continued to compose for the stage until his death, but he allowed his love for chess to take more and more of his time. He made frequent trips to London after 1775 to play at the St. James Chess Club. Philidor was one of the finest early composers of opéra–comique. Although his scores are often hampered by poor librettos, his orch. writing is effective. He was an inventive composer, and introduced the novelty of a vocal quartet a cappella (in Tom Jones). He wrote sacred music as well. His choral work, the Carmen saeculare, after Horace, proved most successful at its premiere in London on Feb. 26, 1779. Other vocal works include 12 ariettes périodiques.


G. Baretti, The Introduction to the Carmen Seculare (London, 1779); G. Allen, The Life of P., Musician and Chess Player (Philadelphia, 1858; 2nd ed., 1863; reprint, 1971; 3rd ed., 1865); G.–E. Bonnet, P. et l’évolution de la musique française au XVIIIesiècle (Paris, 1921); C. Carroll, R–A. D.–P: His Life and Dramatic Art (diss., Fia. State Univ., 1960); C. Rollin, [F.–A. D.] P.: II musicista che giocava a sacchi (Brescia, 1994).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Philidor (real name, Danican)

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