LOUIS-NICOLAS CLÉRAMBAULT (1676 - 1749)
As with many composers born in the 17th century, we know little of the personal life of Louis-Nicolas Clerambault, though it is recorded that his father played in that famous group of violins used by the King of France. We can assume that he taught his son in his early years, though we find him later studying organ with Andre Raison and composition with Jean-Baptist Moreau. Louis-Nicolas would also claim royal patronage, but such a claim was based on the fact that he organised concerts attended by Louis XIV.
His fame was to come from the many prestigious appointments he enjoyed as an organist, including the post at St Suplice, which made him the best known exponent of the instrument in France. Like Vivaldi he was also to teach at a girl's orphanage, where he used his position to experiment with composition, using the talents of his pupils to perform his works.
It cannot be denied that as a composer he broke no new ground, but was happy to produce music that conformed to the requirements of the day, which eventually took him into the fashionable Italian style of writing.
It was in the field of cantatas that he eventually became most famous as a composer, and here he fused together the French and Italian styles. Yet he was never able to rid himself of that severe approach he gained from Raison. His eventual catalogue was not huge by the standards of the day, and included 25 cantatas, motets, and much solo instrumental music of which Livre d'orgue is considered his masterpiece. He died in Paris in 1704, two of his three surviving children following in their father's footsteps as organists of repute.
Clerambault wrote three Divertissements, the earliest, Le Triomphe d'Iris dates from 1706, and is in the shape of a series of orchestral, solo and choral movements. The date places it at the end of his student years, and it has the vivacity of youth. Scored for soprano, tenor and chorus, many of the orchestral passages feature a solo instrument in the shape of a mini-concerto. The style is obviously derived from the Italian school of composition, and was obviously aimed at a populist market, the solo singers having an outgoing role of virtuosity. It has 29 sections, the story of a pastoral nature, many of the orchestral sections being in dance rhythm, to be staged as such. The end result must have been a quite elaborate spectacle for its time.