“Fanfare Rondeau” was composed by Jean-Joseph Mouret as part of his Suite De Symphonies in 1729 which makes this composition almost three hundred years old! It is certainly one of the oldest pieces of music that I have ever commented on in a post format such as this. In addition to that, “Fanfare Rondeau” is the only composition of Mouret’s to still be played today with any regularity. Thus, not only is this the oldest work to appear in any music series of mine, it also makes Jean-Joseph Mouret the original one-hit wonder! Like all of the music featured in Keepin’ It Classy, “Fanfare Rondeau” is a piece of music that you will recognize from the opening notes. In fact, although this composition was well-received at the time of its creation, it has become even more popular today because of its association with a famous TV show. So let’s take a closer look at this noteworthy composition and the man who created it. Here is the story of “Fanfare Rondeau” by Jean-Joseph Mouret.
During his lifetime, Jean-Joseph Mouret was quite a famous and popular composer. As a young man, he was noted for his quick wit, stylish disposition and the ease with which he moved in the social circles of the French nobility. While barely into his twenties, Mouret fell under the protective patronage of Anne, the Duchess of Maine. Anne was originally a member of the House of Bourbon, which was a powerful political family in aristocratic circles in France. In a marriage of political convenience, she became married to Louis-Auguste, the illegitimate son of King Louis XIV. The Duchess of Maine used her influential position to promote French culture and the Arts. She became known for the banquets she held and for the musical performances she commissioned. For the position of Surintendant de la Musique, she selected the young Jean-Joseph Mouret. He quickly fell into his role as a valued member of the Duchess of Maine’s royal court and created hundreds of compositions in her honour that became the featured music played during her feasts. Consequently, Mouret enjoyed much favour among the aristocracy and was able to live a life of relative luxury for a man who had no royal bloodline of his own.
Because the vast majority of the music he created was never performed outside of the royal ballrooms of the Duke and Duchess of Maine, Mouret’s work never became popular in the larger, more commercial sense. In fact, the only time Jean-Joseph Mouret ventured beyond the protective confines of the royal household, his efforts met with disastrous results. At that time in France, the Catholic Church was a powerful presence in the political landscape. Consequently, religious observances were strictly adhered to by most everyone. For example, during the period known as Lent, all opera houses in Paris closed their doors out of respect for the Catholic Church. However, not everyone in France was Catholic, and it was felt that The Arts should continue during Lent as long as they were such that all performances had thematic aspects that respected the religious tone of the times. Thus, a series of public concerts were organized that became known as Concerts Spirituel. These concerts were originally organized by someone else but soon the series fell into financial ruin. In his position of Surintendant de la Musique in the royal court, Jean-Joseph Mouret was asked to come in and take over the leadership of these secular concerts. Mouret was delighted to have been approached and saw this as an opportunity to expand his influence beyond the walls of the royal palace. However, it turned out that the members of the nobility had sworn their allegiance to the Catholic Church, and they refused to follow their favourite composer into the public world of Parisian music. Not long after agreeing to head the Concerts Spirituel series, Mouret was forced to declare bankruptcy. It was a shameful and humiliating moment for Mouret. Afterwards, he was forced to return to his duties at the behest of the Duchess of Maine having had any political or career ambitions stripped from him leaving him effectively neutered in the eyes of those in the royal court. For the remainder of his life, he composed music for the Duchess and her friends…and never again for anyone else.
As mentioned, there is only one piece of Mouret’s entire musical catalogue that has survived the passage of time and that is a piece of music entitled “Fanfare Rondeau”. As you may know, a fanfare is a piece of music that is often played when someone of importance is being welcomed into a place where a crowd has gathered. In Mouret’s case, his “Fanfare Rondeau” was commissioned to announce the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Maine into the royal ballroom. In musical terms, a rondeau is a segment of music that is part of a sequence of structured movements called musical forms. Back during the Baroque Period of classical music, the use of the standardized musical form compositional structure was common practice. In that common structure, the rondeau was considered to be the first segment of the musical form (which often consisted of three to four parts). Thus, in his Suites de Symphonies, the rondeau was the introductory segment of the symphony and because it was being used to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Maine into the ballroom, the rondeau was also considered to be a fanfare, thus the piece became known as “Fanfare Rondeau”.
This composition was very popular when it debuted. It became the standard introductory fanfare used to welcome royal visitors into any royal court in France thereafter. But what ensured the continued relevance of “Fanfare Rondeau” no longer has anything to do with the shiny people of the noble class. Instead, what made this composition so well known and popular today was its selection as the opening theme for the PBS television series, Masterpiece Theater. The producers of Masterpiece Theater wanted to bring a sense of the importance of art and culture into the living rooms of regular Americans by showcasing some of the finest theatrical plays and movies available. In order to give their programmes a regal air, the producers selected “Fanfare Rondeau” as their show’s opening theme. Masterpiece Theater has been one of the flagship shows on the entire PBS network, and as such, the playing of “Fanfare Rondeau” has come to represent PBS, as a whole, in the eyes of the world. Although Jean-Joseph Mouret has long since passed away, his ability to capture the essence of upper class refinement in music has granted him a sense of immortality that finally extends his name beyond the walls of the royal palace of the Duke and Duchess of Maine in France. The proof that the name of Jean-Joseph Mouret lives on will be seen in the fact that you will know his music the second it begins. His “Fanfare Rondeau” has become synonymous with classiness and refinement. Undoubtedly, this would make Mouret proud.
The link to the video for the composition “Fanfare Rondeau” by Jean-Joseph Mouret can be found here.
The link to the video for the playing of the opening theme to Masterpiece Theatre on PBS can be found here.
The link to the official website for Jean-Joseph Mouret can be found here.
The link to the world’s greatest classical music station…Classical FM 103.1…broadcasting out of my hometown of Cobourg, Ontario, Canada can be found here.
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