Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, also known as "Jacques Champion" and as "Chambonnières" (circa 1601 – 1672, Paris) was a French harpsichordist in the Early Baroque era.
He was reported to have "excelled every performer in the softness and roundness of his touch." He is considered the founder of the French harpsichord school - in part, because he published two collections of his works in 1670 - although he probably inherited a rich and long tradition. The French harpsichord school flourished during the 17th and 18th centuries and led to François Couperin (1668-1733) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764).
His family was one of musicians. His grandfather, Thomas Campion, also known as Mithou (ca. 1525–ca.1580), was harpsichordist to the King of France (Organiste et épinette du roy); he married the daughter of a Scottish lutenist, Jacques (James) Edinthon and had a son, Jacques Campion (circa 1555 – 1642) who inherited his title according to the system of survivance (automatic transmission of a charge to an heir).
Chambonnières received the survivance from his father as early as 1611, actually sharing the charge with him from 1638. He was, at that time, an unsurpassed virtuoso of the harpsichord as was mentioned by the contemporary scholars Christiaan Huygens and Marin Mersenne, and his talent was highly praised. He gave concerts under subscription in his home, with the collaboration of musicians he hired by himself, which were the first evidence of private concerts not given under royal or aristocratic control in France.
He wanted to be considered as a nobleman who practiced music as a dilettante, enjoying an extravagant lifestyle, and owning a horse driven coach. This was the cause of financial difficulties. He married twice, the first time (before 1631) to Marie Le Clerc then, as a widower, to Marguerite Ferret on December 16, 1652. But they separated in 1657, due to Chambonnières's need for luxury, which was hardly compatible with his income.
He discovered the talent of Louis Couperin during a private party in his manor near Chaumes-en-Brie, and made him come to Paris where he was to have a brilliant and short career. Chambonnières was also the teacher of Jean-Henri d'Anglebert and Jacques Hardel.
He also was a good dancer, and performed in the Ballet Royal de la Nuit of 1653. In 1655 - 1656, he lost his influence among the musicians of Louis XIV, perhaps because he refused to play continuo in the orchestra of Jean-Baptiste Lully. He fell into disgrace and sold his title to his pupil Jean-Henry d'Anglebert. Louis Couperin had refused to take the place of his revered benefactor. Due to lack of money, Chambonnières decided to edit his pieces, and published two books with royal privilege in 1670. They contain some 70 pieces and are the first printed evidence of harpsichord music published in France. He died in poverty soon after.
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