Saturday, 12 August 2017


“The violin — that most human of all instruments…” – Louisa May Alcott 

Jean-Féry Rebel (18 April 1666 – 2 January 1747) was an innovative French Baroque composer and violinist. Rebel (pronounced re-BEL), a son of the singer Jean Rebel, a tenor in Louis XIV’s private chapel, was a child violin prodigy. He became, at the age of eight, one of his father’s most famous musical offspring. Later, he was a student of the great composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.

Rebel was a violinist, harpsichordist, conductor and composer. By 1699, at age 33, Rebel had become first violinist of the Académie Royale de Musique (also known as the Opéra). He travelled to Spain in 1700. Upon his return to France in 1705, he was given a place in the prestigious ensemble known as the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy. He was chosen Maître de Musique in 1716. His most important position at court was Chamber Composer, receiving the title in 1726. Rebel served as court composer to Louis XIV and Maître de Musique at the Académie, and directed the Concert Spirituel (during the 1734-1735 season).

Rebel was one of the first French musicians to compose sonatas in the Italian style. Many of his compositions are marked by striking originality that include complex counter-rhythms and audacious harmonies that were not fully appreciated by listeners of his time. His opus “Les Caractères de la Danse” combined music with dance, a French tradition, and presented innovative metrical inventions. The work was popular and was performed in London in 1725 under the baton of George Frideric Handel.

In honour of his teacher, Rebel composed “Le Tombeau de M. Lully” (literally, “The Tomb of Monsieur Lully”; figuratively, “A Tribute to Lully”). Some of Rebel’s compositions are described as choreographed “Symphonies”. Among his boldest original compositions is “Les Élémens” (The Elements) which describes the creation of the world, with the beginning, “Le Chaos”, being surprisingly modern. His son François Rebel (1701-1775) was also a composer, noted violinist, and member of the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy. He co-wrote and co-directed operas with François Francœur. The Rebel Baroque Orchestra, formed in 1991, was named in the honour of this notable French composer.

Here are some of his Violin Sonatas performed by “L’ Assemblée des Honnêtes Curieux”.

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