Classic Cocktails and Classical Music: J. P. Rameau

More Ghost Than a Man

We love to idolize the child prodigies: the Mozarts of the world. But we should also appreciate those who came to genius later. Take heart my middle-aged friends! Jean-Philippe Rameau didn't hit his stride until he was 50 years old, when he launched his career as a composer of opera, eclipsing Lully as a master of French style.

sketch portrait of J. P. Rameau (c) 2015 by David Borden
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Rameau lived in relative obscurity until he published his sensational "Treatise on Music" (which, by the way, is still available for purchase) in 1722 at 39 years old. The work has been attributed by some as founding the basis for musical instruction in the Western World. The book established him a the premier theorist of his day. His fame grew with his harpsichord works after that. However, it wasn't for another decade, when he devoted his time to opera, that fame and fortune followed.

Rameau was so tall and skinny that one contemporary said he was "more a ghost than a man." His enemies said he was stingy, though he shared his wealth with relatives in need. Perhaps his reputation came from his total lack of ostentation. He never lost the frugal ways he adopted from a life mostly spent without wealth. He owned one pair of shoes, wore old clothes, and apparently only had one beat up harpsichord until the day he died.

As with many masters of the baroque period, his music fell out of fashion shortly after his death, not to be fully resurrected until the 20th century.

I have several LPs of piano versions of his keyboard music. Rameau is one of my favorites for relaxation and contemplation because of his control of melody and mood. Do yourself a favor and discover his works if you haven't already. It is never too late in life to get acquainted with a true innovator and master. As you have read in my other posts, you won't recognize the innovation right away because like other innovators, such as Haydn, he set a new standard.

Link to Natacha Kudritskaya performance of Rameau.

I've paired Rameau with a smooth, unpretentious cocktail.

My recipe for the perfect Gilroy:

1 oz. gin
1 oz. cherry brandy
1/2 fresh squeezed lemon
dash orange bitters

Shake everything with cracked ice. Strain and pour. Garnish with a cherry. If you like it with a twinge of orange, garnish with an orange slice.

Cheers.

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