Rousseau, Jean-Jacques , great Swiss-born French philosopher and author; b. Geneva, June 28, 1712; d. Ermenonville, near Paris, July 2, 1778. Without other musical training besides desultory self-instruction, Rousseau made his debut as a music scholar at the age of 29, reading a paper before the Académie in Paris (1724), which was received and publ. as a Dissertation sur la musique moderne (1743). His opera Les Muses galantes had only 1 private representation, at the house of La Pouplinière in 1745; his revision of the intermezzo La Reine de Navarre (by Voltaire and Rameau) was a failure in Paris; but his opera Le Devin du village (Fontainebleau, Oct. 18, 1752; Paris Opéra, March 1, 1753) was very successful and remained in the repertoire for 75 years. In the meantime, his musical articles for the Encyclopédie had evoked scathing criticism from Rameau and others; improved by revision and augmentation, they were republ. as his Dictionnaire de musique (Geneva, 1767; the existence of this ed. cannot be proved; 1st known ed., Paris, 1768). In 1752 commenced the dispute, known as the “guerre des bouffons,” between the partisans of French and Italian opera; Rousseau sided with the latter, publ. a Lettre à M. Grimm au sujet des remarques ajoutées à sa lettre sur Omphale (1752), followed by the caustic Lettre sur la musique française (1753; to which the members of the Opéra responded by burning him in effigy and excluding him from the theater) and Lettre d’un symphoniste de l’Académie royale de musique à ses camarades (1753). He wrote 2 numbers for the melodrama Pygmalion (1770; Paris, Oct. 30, 1775). Publ. posthumously were 6 new arias for Le Devin du village, and a collection of about 100 romances and duets, Les Consolations des misères de ma vie (1781), and fragments of an opera, Daphnis et Chloé (1780). His writings on music are included in the Oeuvres complètes de Jean-Jacques Rousseau (4 vols., 1959–69); for his letters, see R. Leigh, ed., Correspondance complète Jean-Jacques Rousseau (18 vols., 1965–73).
A. Jensen, J.-J. R.: Fragments inédits, recherches biographiques (Paris, 1882); A. Jansen, J.-J. R. als Musiker (Berlin, 1884); A. Pougin, J.-J. R., Musicien (Paris, 1901); E. Istel, J.-J. R. als Komponist seiner lyrischen Szene “Pygmalion” (Leipzig, 1901); E. Schütte, J.-J. R.: Seine Persönlichkeit und sein Stil (Leipzig, 1910); J. Tiersot, J.-J. R. (Paris, 1912); E. Faguet, R. artiste (Paris, 1913); A. Sells, The Early Life of R.: 1712–40 (London, 1929); R. Gerin, J.-J. R (Paris, 1930); M. Moffat, R. et le théâtre (Paris, 1930); A. Pochon, J.-J. R., musiciens et le critique (Montreux, 1940); J. Senelier, Bibliographie générale des oeuvres de J.-J. R.(Paris, 1949); P. Gülke, R. und die Musik, oder, Von der Zuständigkeit des Dilettanten (Wilhelmshaven, 1984); M. O’Dea, J.-J. R.: Music, Illusion, and Desire (N.Y., 1995).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire