Pierre Guédron


Born: 570 Died: 1619
Pierre Guédron rose from relative obscurity in the French provinces to become one of the most renowned and influential composers of the early seventeenth century French court. His Airs de Cour, especially, resonated with the contemporary courtly audience and helped fuel a phenomenal Parisian vogue for the genre. The first documentary evidence of his life comes at the end of his puberty: in 1583, Pierre was known to be singing in the chapel of the Cardinal of Lorraine at Puy d'Evreaux, but his voice had just broken. He apprently continued singing for the Cardinal until that gentleman was assassinated in 1588. Two years later, Guédron transferred to the somewhat more secular and courtly musical chapel of King Henri IV, and he commenced a meteoric rise in the world of the court. Even a bare listing of his successive titles and court posts gives an idea of his climb: maître des chanteurs de la chambre, compositeur de la chambre du roi, (1601) valet du chambre du roi, maître des enfants de la musique, (1603) maître en la musique de la chambre de sa majesté, (1604) and finally, in 1613, surintendent des musiques de la chambre du roi. In 1617, he may have slipped into semi-retirement, by entering the service of the Queen Mother, less exposed to the infighting of court life; he died (presumably wealthy) in 1619 or 1620. While he was alive, his contemporaries praised him for his skills as a performer, teacher, and composer alike; he remained in vogue for a lengthy time after his death. His music betrayed some Italian influences (Caccini, of course, came to court for the wedding of King Henri and Maria de' Medici), such as expressive recitative and some experiments in basso continuo style, but it breathed French elegance to its end.

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