Les Sauvages

Jean-Phillipe Rameau
Nouvelles suites de pieces de clavecin
Paris 1729-30
Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library (Merritt Room) 791.2.412

Click for full-size imageThis fashionable piece of French music was singled out by Amiot for performance at the Chinese court. By Amiot's account, it failed to make a positive impression:

[Rameau's] Les Sauvages, les Cyclopes, the most beautiful sonatas, the most melodious and most brilliant flute airs from the collection by [Michel] Blavet – nothing of all this made an impression on the Chinese. All I saw on their faces was a cold and distracted expression that indicated to me that I had far from moved them. One day I enquired how they found our music, and I asked them to tell me frankly what they thought about it. They replied as politely as they possibly could that our songs are not made for their ears, nor their ears for our songs, it was not surprising that they did not sense the beauties of them, as they sensed them in their own. The songs of our music, added a doctor, who was among those one calls Han-lin, and who was at his majesty's service, the songs of our music pass from the ear to the heart, and from the heart to the soul. We feel them, we understand them: those ones that you just played do not make that effect on us.

from Jean-Joseph Marie Amiot, Memoire sur la musique des Chinois (Paris, 1779) 2-3.

(Click image for full-sized reproduction)


Paavali Jumppanen, harpsichord


Related objects: