Jean-Joseph de Mondonville

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Jean-Joseph de Mondonville, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, ca. 1746

Jean-Joseph de Mondonville (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ ʒozɛf mɔ̃dɔ̃vil], 25 December 1711 (baptised) – 8 October 1772), also known as Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville, was a French violinist and composer. He was a younger contemporary of Jean-Philippe Rameau and enjoyed great success in his day. Pierre-Louis Daquin (son of the composer Louis-Claude Daquin) claimed, "If I couldn't be Rameau, there's no one I would rather be than Mondonville".[1]


Mondonville, 1768 engraving

Mondonville was born in Narbonne in Occitania (South France) to an aristocratic family which had fallen on hard times. In 1733, he moved to Paris where he gained the patronage of the king's mistress Madame de Pompadour and won several musical posts, including violinist for the Concert Spirituel.

His first opus was a volume of violin sonatas, published in 1733. He became a violinist of the Chapelle royale and chamber and performed in some 100 concerts. Some of his grands motets were also performed that year, receiving considerable acclaim. He was appointed sous-maître in 1740 and, in 1744, intendant of the Chapelle royale. He produced operas and grands motets for the Opéra and Concert Spirituel respectively, and was associated with the Théatre des Petits-Cabinets, all the while maintaining his career as a violinist throughout the 1740s. In 1755, he became director of the Concert Spirituel on the death of Pancrace Royer. Mondonville died in Belleville near Paris at the age of sixty.[2]


Sacred music[edit]

Between 1734 and 1755, Mondonville composed 17 grands motets, of which only nine have survived. The motet Venite exultemus domino, published in 1740, won him the post of Maître de musique de la Chapelle (Master of Music of the Chapel). Thanks to his mastery of both orchestral and vocal music, Mondonville brought to the grand motet — the dominant genre of music in the repertory of the Chapelle royale (Royal Chapel) before the French Revolution — an intensity of colour and a dramatic quality hitherto unknown. In 1758, he introduced oratorios as a new genre at the Concert Spirituel.[3]


Although Mondonville's first stage work, Isbé, was a failure, he enjoyed great success with the lighter forms of French Baroque opera: the opéra-ballet and the pastorale héroïque. His most popular works were Le carnaval de Parnasse, Titon et l'Aurore and Daphnis et Alcimadure (for which he wrote his own libretto in Languedocien, his native dialect of the Occitan language).[4] Titon et l'Aurore played an important role in the Querelle des Bouffons, the controversy between partisans of French and Italian opera which raged in Paris in the early 1750s. Members of the "French party" ensured that Titon's premiere was a resounding success (their opponents even alleged they had guaranteed this result by packing the Académie Royale de Musique, where the staging took place, with royal soldiers).[5] Mondonville's one foray into serious French opera - the genre known as tragédie en musique - was a failure however. He took the unusual step of re-using a libretto, Thésée, which had originally been set in 1675 by the "father of French opera", Jean-Baptiste Lully. Mondonville's bold move to substitute Lully's much-loved music with his own did not pay off. The premiere at the court in 1765 had a mixed reception and a public performance two years later ended with the audience demanding it be replaced by the original. Yet Mondonville was merely ahead of his time - in the 1770s, it became fashionable to reset Lully's tragedies with new music, the most famous example being Armide by Gluck.[4]

Selected works[edit]


  • Sonates pour violon op.1 (1733)
  • (6) Sonates en trio pour deux Violons avec la basse continue Œuvre Second, Dédiées à Monsieur le Marquis de la Bourdonnaye, gravées par Le Duc, Paris 1734
  • 6 Pièces de clavecin en sonates op.3 (1734, orchestrated as Sonates en symphonies 1749)
  • The preface of op.4 contains the first evidence of a written text concerning playing with harmonic sounds, "Les sons harmoniques" (Paris and Lille, 1738)
  • Pièces de clavecin avec voix ou violon op.5 (1748)


Grands motets[edit]

Mondonville's nine surviving grands motets are:


Mondonville's three oratorios (none survive) were:

  • Les Israélites à la Montagne d'Oreb (1758)
  • Les Fureurs de Saul (1759)
  • Les Titans (1761)

Recordings of works by Mondonville[edit]


  • Grand motet: Cantate Domino, Chorale des Jeunesses Musicales de France, Orchestre Jean-François Paillard, dir. Louis Martini, Erato (1963)
  • Grand motets : Venite exultemus, Dominus regnavit, Orchestre De Chambre Jean-François Paillard, dir. Jean-François Paillard, Erato (1981)
  • Grands motets : Venite exultemus ; De profundis. Petits motets : Regna terrae ; In decachordo psaltorio ; Benefac Domine, Gillian Fisher, Charles Daniels, Stephen Varcoe, London Baroque, New College Oxford Choir, dir. Edward Higginbottom, 1 CD Hyperion (1988) (OCLC 517682353) ; réédition, 1 CD Hyperion, coll. « Helios » (2000) (OCLC 50117510)
  • Grands motets : Dominus regnavit, In exitu Israël, De profundis, Les Arts florissants, dir. William Christie, 1 CD Erato (1997) (OCLC 255380558)
  • Grand motets : Coeli enarrant, Venite Exultemus, Jubilate Deo, Chantres de la Chapelle, Ensemble baroque de Limoges, dir. Christophe Coin, (1 CD Auvidis Astrée (1997)
  • Grand motet: Nisi Dominus, Le Parnasse Français, dir. Louis Castelain, Only available on YouTube (2003) [6]
  • Grand motet: Dominus regnavit, Tafelmusik, dir. Ivars Taurins, CBC Records (2007)
  • Grands motets : Cantate Domino, Magnus Dominus, De profundis, Nisi Dominus, Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra, Chantal Santon-Jeffery, Mathias Vidal, dir. Gyögy Vashegyi, Glossa (2016)
  • Grands motets : In exitu Israël, Dominus Regnavit, Coeli enarrant, Choeur & Orchestre Marguerite Louise, dir. Gaétan Jarry, Château de Versailles Spectacles (2022)
  • Grand motet: In exitu Israël, Le Concert d’Astrée, dir. Emmanuelle Haïm, Warner Classics (2023)

Instrumental Music[edit]

  • Pièces de clavecin en sonates avec accompagnement de violon, œuvre 3, Florence Malgoire (violin), Christophe Rousset (harpsichord) 1 CD Verany (1990)
  • Six sonates en symphonie, op. 3, Les Musiciens du Louvre, dir. Marc Minkowski, 1 CD Archiv Produktion (1998) (OCLC 956264542) ; réédition, 1 CD Archiv Produktion coll. "Blue" (2003) (OCLC 724831406)
  • Pièces de clavecin, op. 5, Luc Beauséjour, Shannon Mercer, Hélène Plouffe, 1 CD Analekta (2008) (OCLC 705324011)
  • Sonates en trio, opus 2, Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler, violin, Audax (2016)

Dramatic works[edit]

  • Daphnis et Alcimadure, Orquèstre e Còrs del Teatre de Montpelhièr, dir. Louis Bertholon, Ventadorn (1981)
  • Titon et l'Aurore, Jennifer Smith, Ann Monoyios, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Philippe Huttenlocher, Les Musiciens du Louvre, dir. Marc Minkowski, 2 CD Erato (1992) (OCLC 39039271)
  • Les Fêtes de Paphos, Véronique Gens, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Sandrine Piau, Olivier Lalouette, Agnès Melon, Les Talens Lyriques, dir. Christophe Rousset, 3 CD L'Oiseau-Lyre (1997)
  • Isbé, Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra, dir. György Vashegyi, Glossa (2017)


  1. ^ Quoted in the booklet to Titon et l'Aurore
  2. ^ Biographical information: Viking, various booklet notes
  3. ^ C. Pierre, Histoire du Concert spirituel (Paris: Heugel, 1975)
  4. ^ a b Viking
  5. ^ Booklet notes to Titon et l'Aurore
  6. ^ Castelain, Louis (2015-05-01). "Mondonville, Nisi Dominus. Grand motet. Édition de Louis Castelain". Éditions du Centre de musique baroque de Versailles.


  • Brief biographical entry in the Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, 1994, published by Oxford University Press, Inc. on the Gramophone website.
  • Booklets to the above recordings
  • The Viking Opera Guide ed. Amanda Holden (Viking, 1993)
  • C. Pierre, Histoire du Concert spirituel (Paris: Société française de musicologie, 1975).
  • R. Machard, Jean-Joseph Cassanea de Mondonville: Virtuose, compositeur et Chef d'orchestre (Béziers: Société de Musicologie du Languedoc, 1980).

External links[edit]