Skip to Main Content

Lesser-Known Composer of the Month: Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre

Each month the Allen Music Library highlights an oft-forgotten composer (from the slightly off mainstream to the obscure) represented in our collections, along with short profiles of lesser-known performers, musical scholars, or other musicians.

Performances in the Wild

Streaming Audio Highlights

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729)

Wait, Who?

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre was a child prodigy, singing and performing on the harpsichord at the court of Louis XIV at age five.  The Jacquet family contained a number of musicians and instrument makers, including virtually all of her immediate family; her father and both brothers were organists, and her elder sister played harpsichord or viol for the household of the Duchess of Guise.

In the July 1677 edition of the Mercure galant, she was described as "a wonder" who could sing difficult music at sight, accompany herself or others on the harpsichord, and compose pieces and play them "in all the keys asked of her."  Louis XIV encouraged her career, and for several years she was officially attached to the household of Madame de Montespan, at that time the principal mistress of the king.  She left the court for Paris after her marriage to the organist Marin de la Guerre in 1684, after which she occupied herself with teaching and performing.  She hosted concerts in her own home as well as performing at the Théâtre de la Foire and was reputed to have a great gift for improvisation.

She retired from public performance in 1717; her last known work, a Te Deum (now lost) celebrating the recovery of Louis XV from smallpox, was performed in 1721.  A commemorative medal was issued in her honor shortly after her death.

Brief Bibliography

In the Library

Works in Brief

Jacquet de la Guerre's known output is relatively small, perhaps as a result of her talent for extemporaneous performances.  The earliest surviving works are the five suites for harpsichord she published in 1687, most beginning with an unmeasured prelude after the fashion of Louis Couperin.  In 1707 she published two more suites, which according to the title page may optionally be played with added violin.

Other instrumental works include eight sonatas for violin and continuo and four trio sonatas, probably dating from the early-to-mid 1690s.  The sonata at the time was a new genre in France, a vogue having been created by the publication and dissemination of Corelli's sonatas in the 1680s.  Jacquet de la Guerre was, along with Charpentier and François Couperin, among the first native French composers to adopt the sonata.

Her vocal works include the opera Céphale et Procris and fifteen published cantatas—twelve on stories from the Old Testament and three on mythological or allegorical topics.  Isolated songs also survive.

Known lost works include her final Te Deum and an early ballet.

Associate Music Cataloger

Profile Photo
Laura Gayle Green
Allen Music Library
College of Music, FSU
122 N. Copeland St.
Tallahassee, FL 32306
Website Skype Contact: lauragayle
Subjects: Music

Music Quick Links

Frequently Used Resources

The Florida State University Libraries

© 2022 Florida State University Libraries | 116 Honors Way | Tallahassee, FL 32306 | (850) 644-2706