Duphly [Dufly, Du Phly etc.], Jacques
- David Fuller
(b Rouen, Jan 12, 1715; d Paris, July 15, 1789). French harpsichordist and composer. He was the son of Jacques-Agathe Duphly and Marie-Louise Boivin of the parish of St Eloi, whose registers supply the little that is known of his early life. On 11 September 1734 ‘le sieur Dufliq, organist of the cathedral of Evreux’ applied for a position at St Eloi; the register goes on to make clear that he had been trained by Dagincourt at Rouen, went to Evreux (c1732) for what must have been his first appointment (he was only 19 when he resigned from it) and returned to his native parish. His tenure at St Eloi began inauspiciously with his being shut out of the organ loft by his aged predecessor; but the church quickly changed the locks. To St Eloi he added Notre Dame de la Ronde in 1740, his sister Marie-Anne-Agathe filling in when duties conflicted. He left both appointments in 1742 and moved to Paris; according to the clerk of St Eloi, it was affaires that drew him there, but other reports suggest that it was the realization that he would do better as a specialist of the harpsichord in Paris than as an organist in Rouen. Pierre-Louis Daquin, son of the organist, said of ‘Duflitz’ in 1752:
For some time he was organist at Rouen, but doubtless finding that he had a greater gift for the harpsichord, he abandoned his first instrument. One may suppose that he did well, since he passes in Paris for a very good harpsichordist. He has much lightness of touch and a certain softness which, sustained by ornaments, marvellously render the character of his pieces.
Marpurg (1754) remarked that ‘Duphly, a pupil of Dagincourt, plays the harpsichord only, in order, as he says, not to spoil his hand with the organ. He lives in Paris, where he instructs the leading families’.
His reputation seems to have reached its peak in the 1750s and 60s. Marpurg’s Raccolta delle più nuove composizioni di clavicembalo, ii (1757), contains a pair of rondeaux from Duphly’s first book. In 1764 Walsh brought out an edition of his second book; in 1765 the 20-year-old Richard Fitzwilliam was studying with him. That year Pascal Taskin, the harpsichord maker, reckoned ‘Dufly’ among the best teachers in Paris, along with Armand-Louis Couperin, Balbastre and Le Grand. The article on fingering in Rousseau’s Dictionnaire (1768) contains rules which the author presents ‘with confidence, because I have them from M Dupli, excellent harpsichord teacher who possesses above all perfection in fingering’ (though either Duphly or Rousseau overlooked the fact that these ‘rules’ were lifted word for word from Rameau’s, in his Pièces de clavecin of 1724). The titles and dedications of Duphly’s pieces show him to have been a part of the inner circle of professional and aristocratic connoisseurs; yet he seems to have been unambitious and content with a simple life. D’Aquin wrote that ‘in general his pieces are sweet and amiable: they take after their father’. Although this represents a curious judgment of his music, which is more often flashy and energetic, it may reflect a nature that allowed him to drift gently from view to a point of obscurity where it became necessary to inquire in the Journal général de la France (27 November 1788) ‘what has become of M Duphlis, former harpsichord teacher in Paris, where he was in 1767. If he no longer exists, one would like to know his heirs, to whom there is something to communicate’. When he died, the next year, no heirs appeared; even his sister could not be located. But his will and the inventory of his effects show that he had been living in modest comfort in a small apartment overlooking the garden in the Hôtel de Juigné. His dedication of his last pieces to the Marchioness of Juigné, 21 years before, did not exempt him from paying 300 livres a year for rent. Evidently Duphly never married: his chief legatee was his manservant of 30 years. There was not even a harpsichord.
Dagincourt may have been Duphly’s teacher, but Rameau’s harpsichord music served as Duphly’s chief model. Rameau’s shadow falls on themes (the courante La Boucon in book 1 begins like Rameau’s E minor courante, transformed in metre) and on whole pieces (Les colombes in book 2 – which D’Aquin must have meant when he said of Duphly’s music: ‘On connaît les tourterelles, qui affectent le coeur’ – is almost a condensed paraphrase of La timide from Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts, 1741). Scarlatti’s fast 3/8 sonatas have their echo in La De Caze (book 2) and La De la Tour (book 3), and Dagincourt (or Couperin, whom Dagincourt imitated) can be felt in a rondeau in C (book 1) and La De Brissac (book 2), among other pieces.
Book 3 mixes solos and two sonata-like groups with violin accompaniment; the latter are singularly unimaginative in their use of the violin, which seems to have been more a hindrance than a resource. Two solo groups in F minor and D are excellent, however. The first consists of a sombre rondeau in bass-viol range called La Forqueray after the late virtuoso of that instrument, a brilliant chaconne of 285 bars, and a savage tirade entitled La Médée and marked ‘vivement et fort’. In the 12 years between books 3 and 4 fashion passed Duphly by: book 4 contains but six half-hearted essays in Alberti-bass style.
Jacques Duphly: Pièces pour clavecin, Le pupitre, i, ed. F. Petit (Paris, 1967)
printed works published in Paris unless otherwise stated
Pièces de clavecin (1744/R)
Second livre de pièces de clavecin (1748/R), as A Collection of Lessons for the Harpsichord (London, 1764)
Troisième livre de pièces de clavecin (1756/R), 3 pieces ed. J. Volant-Panel (Paris, 1961)
Quatrième livre de pièces de clavecin (1768/R), from which La de Drummond, arr. 1v, hpd as Rondeau gracieux, in Collection lyrique (1774)
- P.-L. D’Aquin: Lettres sur les hommes célèbres … sous le règne de Louis XV (Paris, 1752, 2/1753)
- F.W. Marpurg: Historisch-kritische Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik, 1 (Berlin, 1754–5/R), 459
- J.-J. Rousseau: ‘Doigter’, Dictionnaire de musique (Paris, 1768/R; Eng. trans., 1771, 2/1779/R)
- L. Panel: ‘Jacques Du Phly’, Etudes normandes, nos.13–16 (1954–5), 278–82
- F. Lesure: Introduction to Jacques Duphly: Pièces pour clavecin, ed. F. Petit (Paris, 1967)
- F. Petit: ‘Sur l’oeuvre de Jacques Duphly’, Courrier musical de France, no.23 (1968), 188–90
- B. Gustafson and D. Fuller: A Catalogue of French Harpsichord Music, 1699–1780 (Oxford, 1990)