François Devienne

Biography

Born: January 31, 1759; Joinville   Died: September 5, 1803; Paris, France  
A celebrated bassoonist and flutist in late seventeenth century France, François Devienne is remembered now for the several concertos he wrote for his own performance, although he also wrote a dozen operas and many chamber works. Devienne's early training seems to have been with family members and locals in his home town of Joinville. His first known professional position was last-stand bassoon at the Paris Opera in 1779; while there, he studied Read more with the orchestra's principal flutist. It's likely, but not confirmed, that Devienne began working as a chamber musician for the Cardinal de Rohan in 1780, and remained there until 1785. It's also possible that, as a Mason, he performed in the Masonic Loge Olympique Orchestra during this time.

The first record of a Parisian performance of Devienne's music is in 1780, when someone else premiered one of his bassoon concertos. In 1782 Devienne himself played one of his flute concertos when he gave the first of at least 18 solo performances through 1785 at the Concert Spirituel. His activities during the last half of the decade are unclear; he may have been playing in the Swiss Guards band in Versailles. He was certainly back in Paris by 1790, playing bassoon in what would become the Feydeau Theater, a poorly paid position he would hold until 1801. He also joined the Paris National Guard during this period, where he taught in and administered a music program for children of French soldiers; this was a precursor of the Paris Conservatory, at which he would serve as flute professor. Devienne published a famous method for single-key flute in 1794.

Devienne wrote a great number of well-crafted concertos and chamber works for flute and bassoon in the 1790s, as well as many pedagogical pieces, but he was best known in Paris during this period as an opera composer. His fortunes declined suddenly in the new century, though; he died in 1803, four months after being committed to the Charenton insane asylum. Read less

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