Philidor is of great importance in the history of opera as one of the founders of the French opéra comique. One of his greatest successes was Tom Jones (1764), based on Fielding’s novel, which is occasionally revived As a chess player he is remembered by the opening named after him and as the author of an important study: L’analyse des jeux des échecs (London 1749, revised edition printed 1777), written in Holland and in Germany, translations into many languages.
George Allen, The life of Philidor, musician and chess player; supplementary essay by Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa, Philadelphia, 1863; reprinted by Da Capo Press, New York, 1971. xii + 156 pp; 23 cm ISBN 0306700751
Pour Philidor: ein Gedenkschrift zum 200. Todestag des Musikers und Schachmeisters/herausgegeben von Jean François Dupont-Danican. Koblenz, Fink, 1995 — 240 pp. ill. diagr. port. 22 cm. lit. ISBN 3-929291-82-9
Recherche sur la musique française XXVIII, 1993–1995, Picard, Paris, 1995. Philidor, musicien et joueur d’échecs. contains a short biography and articles on his stay in London, his musical style, and his significance in chess history. Also 38 letters, mostly not published previously, and several useful indexes.
(Contribution by Willem Vijvers <wgvijverswxs.nl>.)
Both music lovers and chess lovers will remember Philidor. He was a succesful composer and the strongest chess player of the eighteenth century. He left a considerable number of operas and an influential treatise on chess theory. The bicentenary of his death in 1995 caused a renewed interest in his life and work.
Philidor was born into a musical family and got his musical education from André Campra. He had been admitted at the age of six, four years earlier then the rules of the Royal Chapel allowed because of his extraordinary talent and his good voice. His first major composition, a motet, was performed in the presence of the king, Louis XV, who gave him five louis d’or as a present. The musicians of the Royal Chapel, who often had to wait long hours, played chess because cards were forbidden. The bright boy soon picked up the rules of the game and when he went to Paris in 1740, he made more money out of playing chess than by copying music. In the Café de la Régence, patronized by men like Diderot and Rousseau, he made furore by playing blindfold. In 1745 Philidor went to the Netherlands on a concert tour, only to return in 1754. In these years he occupied himself mainly with chess, staying in England for most of the time. After his return to Paris, he became a successful opera composer and in 1760 was able to marry Angélique Richer, daughter of a composer. However, after 1780, his success gradually declined and he depended more and more on chess to support his large family. He was a frequent visitor of England, were he happened to be at the time of the French revolution. The war between England and France prevented his return and he died in London.