Dissertation Index

Author: Konov Yavor S.

Title: The first treatise of harpsichord "Les Principes du Clavecin" by Saint Lambert (Paris, M. DCCII)

Institution: State Academy of Music

Begun: September 1994

Completed: September 1997


The attainment of some authenticity (relative) in the harpsichord pieces playing is more possible if one knows the sources from this epoque. Translating in Bulgarian language De Saint Lambert's 2 treatises (Les Principes du Clavecin, Paris, M. DCCII & Nouveau Traite de l'Accompagnement du Clavecin, de l'Orgue, et des Autres Instruments, Paris, M. DCCVII) and studying thoroughly the first of them, it was found that:

Historically M. De Saint Lambert's "Les Principes du Clavecin" is the first systematical treatise, devoted to the education of playing the harpsichord. It is preceded or followed by:

- "Arte de taner fantasia" (Valladolid, 1565) by Tomas de Santa-Maria, concerned mainly with teaching how to improvise pieces in fugal style, with problems of the counterpoint and harmony
- "A Choice Collection of Lessons for the Harpsichord or Spinnet" (London, 1696) by Henry Purcell, treating some problems of the harpsichordist’s education; but the authorship of Purcell is uncertain, because the publishing was posthume, by his widow, also a musician;
- "L'Art de toucher le clavecin" (Paris, 1716-17), the world renowned treatise by Francois Couperin Le Grand, published 14 years later than "Les Principes du Clavecin".
The appearance of the treatise "Les Principes du Clavecin" is motivated by the development and flowering of the harpsichord in the time of Louis XIV. It responds to the increasing necessity of treatises about the harpsichord-theory, practice and method of education.

The harpsichord-method of education, presented by De Saint Lambert in "Les Principes du Clavecin":

- For the first time in the musical education--and generally speaking in the pedagogy--in the triad "knowledge-teacher-learner" De Saint Lambert puts the learner on the first place. In this turn of pedagogy, he is preceding J.-J. Rousseau and Pestalozzi;
- The treatise is characterized by its impressive systematic nature, accuracy of formulations and rules, clearness and gradualness of the teaching;
- De Saint Lambert insists, that the learner’s essential qualities are the ear and the hand, the teacher’s--the
knowledge, ability and the will to educate his pupil. The teacher’s cardinal fault, that breaks down all the education of harpsichord, respectively the pupil’s prospects in the future, is the inability to place correctly the position of the hand;
- De Saint Lambert clearly differentiates the qualities of the good musician-performer and those of the good musician-pedagogue;
- De Saint Lambert is teaching essential rules, but he allows, after becoming used to them, liberty to the learner in order to achieve handiness and easiness;
- De Saint Lambert insists on the intelligent teaching of every learner, relevant to his individual talent and age; the education should be enjoyable and pleasant to the pupil, without boredom or disgust;
- With regard to the interpretation, De Saint Lambert leaves to the talented learner, already with professional knowledge and competence, the typical French "bon gout" as ultimate arbiter.

The innovations in the treatise "Les Principes du Clavecin":

- Breaking some traditional rules and methods in the theory and practice, De Saint Lambert proposes innovations that are always verified in advance by his personal experience as teacher;
- The most important of them are: a proposal of reforming the clefs system, facilitations in recording of notes and embellishments, changes in the fingering of the scale passages.

De Saint Lambert’s music terminology:

- Perfect informativeness, adequate to the knowledge of his time;
- Pronounced disposition to integral musical terms, despite the excellent knowledge of their numerable nuances;
- An appropriate adaptation of the musical terminology to the purposes of harpsichord teaching (and the teaching of music in general).

The personality of De Saint Lambert:

- De Saint Lambert is known to the public only as far as his two treatises are available. They reveal the experienced harpsichordist, outstanding pedagogue ant theorist, with knowledge adequate to the epoch.
- High moral, honesty and striking lack of self-assertion and greed of money continuously stream out of the De Saint Lambert’s treatise. This is probably under the influence by French moralists and because of his own nature and attitudes.


The De Saint Lambert’s treatise "Les Principes du Clavecin" (Paris, Ballard, 1702) is a bright witness of the 17th century harpsichord-theory and practice.

It is of big interest to the contemporary musician: theorist, clavier pedagogue and/or performer (particularly in the music of the epoch of French harpsichordism).

The De Saint Lambert’s treatise "Les Principes du Clavecin" should receive a respectable place in the Bulgarian musical literature and education.

Keywords: De Saint Lambert, music (terminology, theory, practice, performance, pedagogy, education), harpsichord (terminology, theory, pedagogy, education), treatise, Bulgaria


Chapter one: About M. De Saint Lambert and his time
Chapter two: Pedagogical and practical methods in the "Les Principes du Clavecin"
Chapter three: The Saint Lambert's personal method in the teaching
Chapter four: Fundamental musical terms from the "Les Principes du Clavecin"
Chapter five: From the time distance
Deductions and conclusion

Pages: 241

Bibliography (235 items - 95 Cyrillic, 140 Latin)


Dr Yavor KONOV
23, Dospat St., 1463 Sofia, BULGARIA
phone number (+ 00 359 2) 540 943

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