Michel Pignolet de Montéclair, 1667-1737
Little is known of this poorly researched composer, and it appears that there
are no portraits.
Montéclair was born in Andelot, a small hole in Northwestern France, as Michel
Pignolet, son of a weaver, and only later added "Montéclair" (a fortress in his
home town) to his name. His entrance into the choir school at the age of nine
may have been the only chance of escaping the poverty of a weaver's life. In 1687,
he went to Paris where he joined the orchestra of the Opera where he played the
basse de violon. At some point between 1687 and the early years of the
new century, he must have been maître de musique to the Prince de Vaudémont
and have followed him to Italy. It was probably from there that he brought the
idea to add the double bass to the opera orchestra.
All the time Montéclair must have worked as a music teacher of high regard:
Among his pupils were his colleague Couperin's daughters. His approach to teaching
was fresh and almost modern. He published books on teaching music (e.g. 1709) and
opened a music shop (1721) before he retired from teaching in 1735. He gave up his
position in the opera orchestra shortly before his death in 1737.
Montéclair was not all too productive as a composer, but he tried his talent
on most of the genres of the time and exerted a certain influence on Rameau.
His specialty was using certain instruments to enhance the stage scene, e.g.
letting horns play softly behind the stage to simulate a faraway hunt.
Among his stage works are Festes de l'été and Jephté, which was considered
difficult by contemporaries.
The only recordings I know of are Jephté on Harmonia Mundi HMC 901424.25 and
a collection of cantates which contains my favourite, Le Triomphe de l'Amour.
A MIDI version of it is in the MIDI archive.
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