The Kennedy Center

Jean-Baptiste-Henry D’Anglebert


Born in Paris, in 1635, Jean Henry D'Anglebert French composer, harpsichordist, and organist became the chief keyboard player in the service of Louis XIV, and laid the groundwork for many of the triumphant achievements of François Couperin in the early eighteenth century.  In 1689, D'Anglebert published the first book of his Pièces de clavecin. He is thought to have been a pupil of Chambonnières, and his celebrated Tombeau de Monsieur Chambonnières pays homage to his predecessor at the court, Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, the first important French exponent of solo harpsichord performance.

His first professional appointment appears to have been as organist to the Jacobins in the rue Saint-Honoré (1660). D'Anglebert's involvement in music at court began about this time. In August 1660 he purchased the charge of ordinaire de la musique pour le clavecin to the Duke of Orléans, brother of Louis XIV, in succession to Henry Du Mont, a post he held until at least 1668. His friendship with Lully is attested by Lully's being godfather at the baptism of his eldest son (1662). Later that year D'Anglebert formally entered the king's service by buying the reversion of the post of harpsichordist from the disaffected Chambonnières, in an arrangement whereby Chambonnières kept the emoluments but D'Anglebert took over the duties.
An important part of D'Anglebert's influence is the extreme care he took to represent performance detail in his notation, including the notation of préludes non mesurés. The Pieces set a new standard in the engraving of keyboard music. Its table of ornaments is the most sophisticated before François Couperin's (1713) and provided a model into the 18th century for French harpsichord composers including Rameau, and also outside France, most notably for J.S. Bach, who made a copy of it around 1710 and used it as the basis for his own system of ornament signs.
Several small organ pieces by D'Anglebert are also extant; these works provide a welcome glimpse into the playing of the period. D'Anglebert died in 1691. 
Jean-Baptiste-Henry D’Anglebert