Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687).

Giovanni-Battista Lulli was the birth name of this great composer, born in 1632 in Florence. Of his childhood very little is known, but we do know that it was in his hometown that he learnt to play the violin on his own, and that at the age of 14 the Duque of Guise took him to France to enter the service of the king's sister as her kook. Due to his talents as a mime, dancer and violin player, he joined her orchestra and soon became noticed as a brilliant violin player. He became in favour next to the king's sister, but soon he disgraced himself by composing a satirical song about her daughter.

In 1653, Lully became part of Louis the 14th's "Petit Violons du Roi", being once more elevated to the post of 1st violin, due to his musicianship qualities. As all through his artistic career, his ascension was based partially to his friendship with the kink.

Lully, amidst royal favour, took advantage to benefit of his career. Undoubtedly, the composer must have had a strong personality, guiding his career and his enterprises with iron fist, and taking advantage of all that would benefit his career, assuring him success and glory even after his death. Indeed, until 1561 Lully occupied the post of "instrumental composer to the king", of "superintendent to the music" and in 1662 he became "master to the royal family's music".

When Lully arrived in France, the french taste in music had already flourished, especially in figures such as Louis Couperin, whose "Piéces de Clavecin" are so illustrative of this tendency, with it's light and shadow illusions, in a refined and unique manner. It was in this musical environment that Lully developed his own style: Lully himself would influence western music for the following 100 years.

Lully's foremost contribution to music's history was the creation of several genders such as the "comédie-ballet" (together with Moliére), the "Tragédie Lyrique" (with Quinault), and the creation of a musical tradition expressed in the typical french "Ouverture" (successively recreated by Campra, Charpentier, Ramou, Bach or Haëndel), and in the instrumental "suites" from the french tradition of courtely dance and the "Ballet-de-Cour".

Lully worked in the composition of "Ballet-de-Cour" such as the "Ballet de Xerxés", in which he danced with the king and other members of the royal family. In 1664, Lully began his fruitful collaboration with the playwright Moliére, creating the "Comédie-Ballet", that combined the dramatic art to dance and music, giving place to a display of unmeasured beauty, creativity and splendour, being it's peek in the "Plaisirs de l'isle Enchanteé". In their time, they were known as "Les Deux Baptistes".

Yet one must not neglect the role that the italian tradition had in this artistic frenzy: many of Moliére's charecters (as well as Lully's) were taken from the "Commedia dell'Arte", and the instrumentation of some of Lully's early works is influenced by authors such as Cavalli.

The creation of the "Tragedie Lyrique" comes, too from the italian tradition: at the time, since Lucca Marenzio in the late 1500's, the musical-dramatic gender dominated in Italy, in the operatic form, and Louis the 14th wanted the french correspondent to the gender, and with the poet Quinault, Lully created the "Tragedie-Lyrique", that assembled the characteristics of the "Ballet-de-Cour", with the ingredients of the moderns classical tragedies. 

Lully's vas work is composed of ballets, operas, instrumental music, but also of much religious music. It would be inaccurate to think that Lully was only (although essentially) a stage man. Indeed, Lully was profoundly religious, and the expression of this sentiment took form in his many motets: both "Grand-Motets", in a more operatic style, and in his "Petit-Motets", of more genuine an intimate expression.

 

Jean-Baptiste Lully: Ouverture (Atys)

Reccomended reccordings:

Operas:

- "Atys": G.de Mey, G.Laurens, A.Mellon, J.F.Gardeil, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie, France Harmonia Mundi.

- "Armide":Laurens, Crook, Collegium Vocale, La Chapelle Royale, Philippe Herreweghe.. 

- "Alceste": Alliot-lugaz, H.Crook, M.Dens, Gardeil, Gens and others, Ensemble Vocal Sagitarius, La grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy, Malgiore, Asrtrée Auvidis.

- "Phaëtonte": Krook, Yakar, Smith, Gens,  Ensemble Vocal Sagitarius, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Mark Minkowsky, Erato.  

- "Acis et Galatée" (Pastoral Hëroique): Denlunch, Gens, Masset, Simon, Crook, Félix, Fouchécourt, Naouri, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Marc Minkowski, Archiv.

 

Comédies-Ballets:

- "Le Burgeois Gentilhomme": La Petite Bande, Gustav Leohnardt, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.

- "L'amour Malade" (extracts) see below:

 

Ballets:

- "Ballet d'Alcidiane et Polexandre"

- "Ballet de Xerxés"

- "Ballet des Plaisirs"

- "Ballet du Temps" (extracts)

Works recorded on the CD "Ballet Music for the Sun King", avaliable on Naxos.

 

Petit-Motets:

- "Omnes Gentes", "Regina Coeli", "O Sapientia", "Laudate Pueri", "Salve Regina", "Exauti Deus", "Anima Christi", "Ave Coeli", "Dixit Dominus", "O Dulcissime", "Domine Salvum": Les Arts Florissants, Harmonia Mundi.

 

Grands-Motetes:

- "Te Deum": Smith, Bessac, Vanderstenne, Devos, Huttenlocher, Ensemble Vocal "A choeur joie" de Valence, Orchestre Jean-François Paillard, Jean-François Paillard

- "Dies Irae": idem.

- "Miserere": Le Concert Spirituel, Hervé Niquet.

- "Plaude Laetre Gallia": idem.

- "Quare Fremurent": idem.

- "O Lachrymae": idem.

- "De Profundis": idem.

 

   

                                                                          The king Louis the 14th                    The staging of one of Lully's operas

 

                                                                                                    The first edition of Alceste       A charecter from one of Lully's ballets

 

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