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 4 February 1925 in Lyon where she began her musical studies. Uninspired by her teachers and dissatisfied with her progress at the piano, she moved to Paris in 1947. She met Jean-François Paillard in 1948 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. The Bach Year in 1950, with its many concerts and lectures in Paris, was decisive in directing her interest toward early music. In 1953, on the advice of Jacqueline Masson, leader of a harpsichord class at the Paris Conservatoire, she and friend Huguette Dreyfus attended Ruggero Gerlin's masterclass at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena. Gerlin's teaching proved inspirational. Beckensteiner attended his class the following two summers and looked upon him as her master. While she was in Siena, Paillard often visited the Cathedral of San Petronio in Bologna to study early music manuscripts, one of many such archives he visited throughout Europe. Paillard and Beckensteiner married in 1952 and from this union came three sons: Jérôme in 1956, Benoît in 1961 and Stéphane in 1963.
1953 saw the formation of the Jean-Marie Leclair Instrumental Ensemble, a chamber orchestra comprised of twelve string players conducted by Paillard with Beckensteiner as harpsichordist, their initial goal being the performance of French baroque music. Six years later, as their repertoire and fame increased, the ensemble was renamed the Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra. 1955 marked the beginning of the orchestra's highly successful collaboration with the French record label Erato, founded two years earlier by Philippe Loury. Hundreds of LPs followed, many featuring first-performances of newly revived baroque repertoire. The orchestra toured throughout the world and recorded with the leading French musicians of the time including Jean-Pierre Rampal, Maurice André, Lily Laskine, Marie-Claire Alain and Robert Veyron-Lacroix. Beckensteiner also collaborated with flutist Maxence Larrieu and was a member of the Maxence Larrieu Instrumental Quartet with oboist Jacques Chambon and cellist Bernard Fonteny.
From 1967 Beckensteiner was a teaching assistant to Robert Veyron-Lacroix at the Paris Conservatoire, often substituting for him while he was on extended tours with Jean-Pierre Rampal. Outstanding students during this time included Scott Ross and Yannick Le Gaillard. In 1974 she continued her own harpsichord studies with Edith Picht-Axenfeld in Ulm, Germany. Seduced by the sound of Picht-Axenfeld's Dulcken-style harpsichord, she ordered a similar instrument from the workshop of Eckehart Merzdorf to supplant 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 young students at the Volontariat in Pondicherry. She established a recorder quartet and taught at the school for fourteen years, returning to France each summer. Beckensteiner is now retired from teaching and resides in Saint-Malo. She enjoys porcelain painting and is still musically active, learning to play guitar at age 92.