Antoine Forqueray

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Sunday, June 28, 2020

It was on today's date in 1745 that a 73-year-old French Baroque composer named Antoine Forqueray died in Mantes-la-Jolie outside Paris, where he had lived after his retirement as a court musician to King Louis XIV of France.

Forqueray was a virtuoso on the viola da gamba, a bowed string instrument popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, but which is nowadays played mainly by specialists in old music. At the tender age of 10, Forqueray played before Louis XIV. Seven years later he landed a job at the Court of Versailles.

In Forqueray's day the other great French gamba virtuoso and composer was Marin Marais, noted for his introspective, sweet, and gentle style of playing. Forqueray's style was the polar opposite: extroverted and bold, even brash. People said Marais played like an angel, and Forqueray like the devil.

Forqueray's style was so distinctive that three other French composers of the day, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Fran├žois Couperin, and Jacques Duphly, each composed a piece named "La Forqueray" in tribute to him.

An obituary notice suggested that by the time of Forqueray's death he had composed some three hundred works, but a selection of thirty-two pieces published by Forqueray's son two years after his father's death are the only music by Antoine Forqueray that survives.