Anne-Marie Beckensteiner

Harpsichordist during the
"Golden Age" of the French LP

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Maxence Larrieu Instrumental Quartet

Hommage à Huguette Dreyfus


The name Anne-Marie Beckensteiner can be associated with both the revival of interest in Baroque music and the Golden Age of the LP in France during the 1950s.

She was born on 4 February 1925 in Lyon, where she began her musical studies. Dissatisfied with her progress at the piano and uninspired by her teachers, she moved to Paris in 1947. The following year she met Jean-François Paillard while attending the music history class of Norbert Dufourcq at the Paris Conservatoire – her thesis L'Ouverture à la Française des origines à la mort de Rameau was awarded the Prix d'excellence by Dufourcq in 1956. Paillard and Beckensteiner married in 1952 and together raised three sons: Jérôme (1956), Benoît (1961) and Stéphane (1963).

The Bach Year in 1950, celebrated in Paris with concerts and lectures, was decisive in directing Beckensteiner's interest toward early music. In 1953, upon the advice of Jacqueline Masson, leader of the harpsichord class at the Paris Conservatoire, she and fellow classmate Huguette Dreyfus attended Ruggero Gerlin's summer course at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena. Gerlin's teaching proved inspirational and Beckensteiner returned to his class in 1954 and 1955. While she was in Sienna, Paillard studied Baroque manuscripts at the Cathedral of San Petronio in Bologna, one of many such archives he visited throughout Europe.

1953 saw the attendant formation of the Jean-Marie Leclair Instrumental Ensemble by Paillard and the founding of the Erato label by Philippe Loury. The initial goal of the ensemble, comprised of twelve string players and harpsichordist, a position held by Beckensteiner, was the performance of 18th century French instrumental music. This would be the title of their first recording for Erato and the beginning of a remarkably successful collaboration, with Paillard signing a contract in 1954 to record a minimum of five discs each year. More than 200 records followed, many featuring premieres of newly rediscovered Baroque repertoire, as well as performances by leading French soloists of the time, including Jean-Pierre Rampal, Maurice André, Marie-Claire Alain, Lily Laskine and Robert Veyron-Lacroix. As their repertoire and fame increased, the ensemble was renamed the Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra in 1959. The orchestra's first concert abroad was in Fribourg, Switzerland in 1956, and three years later their first European tour took them to Spain and Portugal. Extensive tours of North America and Asia followed in 1967 and 1968.

Beckensteiner also frequently collaborated with flutist Maxence Larrieu and was a member of the Maxence Larrieu Instrumental Quartet, an ensemble of soloists from Paillard's orchestra that included oboist Jacques Chambon and cellist Bernard Fonteny. Their concert debut at Salle Gaveau in Paris on 1 February 1963 was followed by a number of successful recordings for Erato and Critère.

From 1967 Beckensteiner served as teaching assistant to Robert Veyron-Lacroix at the Paris Conservatoire, often replacing him while he was on extended tours with Jean-Pierre Rampal. Outstanding students during this period included Scott Ross and Yannick Le Gaillard. In 1974 she continued her own studies with Edith Picht-Axenfeld in Ulm, Germany. Seduced by the sound and touch of Picht-Axenfeld's Dulcken-style harpsichord, she ordered an identical instrument from the workshop of Eckehart Merzdorf to replace her Neupert. In 1975 she organized a harpsichord class at the Saint-Cloud Conservatoire where her students included Pascal Baylac, Iakovos Pappas, Claire Corneloup and Martine Chappuis. After separating from Paillard, she moved to Grenoble in 1978 where she continued to teach harpsichord.

During a visit to India in 1997 she unexpectedly found herself teaching recorder to students at the Volontariat in Pondicherry. She established a recorder quartet and taught at the school for fourteen years, returning to France during the summers.

Beckensteiner is now retired from teaching and resides near the village of Boisgervilly in Brittany. She enjoys porcelain painting and remains musically inquisitive at age 95.


Anne-Marie Beckensteiner
At Salle Gaveau, Paris, 1967.
Maxence Larrieu Instrumental Quartet
The Maxence Larrieu Instrumental Quartet.

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Last update: 19 April 2020