Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

 in 1661.


Lully, son of a working-class miller, was born in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. Lully had little education, but he learned basic techniques on the guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

, originally taught by a Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 friar of Florence. Later in France, he learned how to play the violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

, and to dance. In 1646, he was discovered by Roger de Lorraine, the chevalier de Guise, son of Charles, Duke of Guise
Charles, Duke of Guise
Charles de Lorraine, 4th Duke of Guise was the son of Henry I, Duke of Guise and Catherine of Cleves.-Biography:...

, and was taken to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, where he entered the services of Mademoiselle de Montpensier (la Grande Mademoiselle)
Anne, Duchess of Montpensier
Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier, known as La Grande Mademoiselle, was the eldest daughter of Gaston d'Orléans, and his first wife Marie de Bourbon. One of the greatest heiresses in history, she died unmarried and childless, leaving her vast fortune to her cousin, Philippe of...

 as a scullery
Scullery may refer to:*Dishwashing*Scullery * Scullery maid...

-boy and Italian-language teacher. With the help of this princess, his talent increased. He studied the theory of music under Nicolas Métru
Nicolas Métru
Nicolas Métru was a French organist, viol player, and composer of pieces for viol and airs. From 1642 he was organist at St. Nicolas-des-Champs, then some time later master of music for the Jesuits...

. It has been said that a scurrilous song on his patroness (the doggerel
Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability in the 1630s.-Variants:...

 he set to music refers to a "sigh" she produced while at stool) resulted in his dismissal. It is far more likely that he did not want to moulder out in the provinces with the exiled princess.

He came into Louis XIV's
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 service in late 1652, early 1653 as a dancer. He composed some music for the Ballet de la nuit, which pleased the king immensely. He was appointed as the composer of instrumental music to the king, and placed at the head of the Petits Violons, the kings private violin band. In 1661, the King appointed Lully the Surintendant de la musique de la chambre du roi, which brought the twenty-four violons of the Grand Bande of Les Vingt-quatre Violons du Roi
Les Vingt-quatre Violons du Roi
The Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy were a famous five-part string orchestra at the French royal court, existing from 1626 to 1761.-History:...

 under Lully's command.

Lully composed many ballets for the King during the 1650s and 1660s, in which the King and Lully himself danced. He also had tremendous success composing the music for the comedies of Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

, including Le Mariage forcé (1664), L'Amour médecin
L'Amour médecin
L'Amour médecin is a French comedy written by Molière. It was presented for the first time by order of King Louis XIV at Versailles on September 22, 1665.-Sganarelle:...

(1665), and Le Bourgeois gentilhomme
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is a five-act comédie-ballet—a play intermingled with music, dance and singing—by Molière, first presented on 14 October 1670 before the court of Louis XIV at the Château of Chambord by Molière's troupe of actors...

(1670). It was when he met Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

 that together they created the comédie-ballet
Comédie-ballet is a genre of French drama which mixes a spoken play with interludes containing music and dance.-History:The first example of the genre is considered to be Les fâcheux, with words by Molière, performed in honour of Louis XIV at Vaux-le-Vicomte, the residence of Nicolas Fouquet, in...

. Louis XIV's interest in ballet waned as he aged, and his dancing ability declined (his last performance was in 1670) and so Lully pursued opera. He bought the privilege for opera from Pierre Perrin
Pierre Perrin
Pierre Perrin was a French poet and librettist.Sometimes known as L'Abbé Perrin although he never belonged to the clergy...

 and, with the backing of Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Jean-Baptiste Colbert was a French politician who served as the Minister of Finances of France from 1665 to 1683 under the rule of King Louis XIV. His relentless hard work and thrift made him an esteemed minister. He achieved a reputation for his work of improving the state of French manufacturing...

 and the king, created a new privilege which essentially gave Lully complete control of all music performed in France until his death in 1687.

He was known to be a libertine
A libertine is one devoid of most moral restraints, which are seen as unnecessary or undesirable, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals and forms of behavior sanctified by the larger society. Libertines, also known as rakes, placed value on physical pleasures, meaning those...

. In 1661, in letters of naturalization and in his marriage contract to Madeleine Lambert, daughter of Lully's friend and fellow musician Michel Lambert
Michel Lambert
Michel Lambert was a French singing master, theorbist and composer.Lambert was born at Champigny-sur-Veude, France. He received his musical education as an altar boy at the Chapel of Gaston d'Orléans. He studied also with Pierre de Nyert in Paris. Since 1636, he was known as a singing teacher...

, Giovanni Battista Lulli declared himself as "'Jean-Baptiste de Lully, escuyer' son of 'Laurent de Lully, gentilhomme Florentin'". Although his life is full of meteoric heights, his love affairs with men and women also brought him down in scandal several times at the great displeasure of Louis XIV. Despite these scandals, he always managed to get back into the good graces of Louis XIV who found Lully essential for his musical entertainments and who thought of Lully as one of his few true friends.

On 8 January 1687, Lully was conducting a Te Deum
Te Deum
The Te Deum is an early Christian hymn of praise. The title is taken from its opening Latin words, Te Deum laudamus, rendered literally as "Thee, O God, we praise"....

 in honor of Louis XIV's recent recovery from illness. He was beating time by banging a long staff (a precursor to the bâton
Baton (conducting)
A baton is a stick that is used by conductors primarily to exaggerate and enhance the manual and bodily movements associated with directing an ensemble of musicians. They are generally made of a light wood, fiberglass or carbon fiber which is tapered to a grip shaped like a pear, drop, cylinder...

) against the floor, as was the common practice at the time, when he struck his toe, creating an abscess
An abscess is a collection of pus that has accumulated in a cavity formed by the tissue in which the pus resides due to an infectious process or other foreign materials...

. The wound turned gangrenous, but Lully refused to have his toe amputated and the gangrene
Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a considerable mass of body tissue dies . This may occur after an injury or infection, or in people suffering from any chronic health problem affecting blood circulation. The primary cause of gangrene is reduced blood...

 spread, resulting in his death on 22 March. He left his last opera, Achille et Polyxène
Achille et Polyxène
Achille et Polyxène is a tragédie lyrique containing a prologue and five acts based on Virgil's Aeneid with a French libretto by Jean Galbert de Campistron. The opera's overture and first act were composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, who died from a conducting injury before he could complete the score...

, unfinished
Unfinished work
An unfinished work is creative work that has not been finished. Its creator may have chosen never to finish it or may have been prevented from doing so by circumstances outside of their control such as death. Such pieces are often the subject of speculation as to what the finished piece would have...

. All three of his sons -- Louis Lully
Louis Lully
Louis Lully was a French musician and the eldest son of Jean-Baptiste Lully.Nearly disinherited by his father following dissolute behaviour and imprisonment, Louis did not have the brilliant career anticipated for him, not only because of his behaviour but also for lack of talent...

, Jean-Baptiste Lully fils
Jean-Baptiste Lully fils
Jean-Baptiste Lully fils was a French musician and the second son of the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. He was also known as Baptiste Lully, Lully fils, and Monsieur Baptiste. He born and died in Paris....

 and Jean-Louis Lully
Jean-Louis Lully
Jean-Louis Lully was a French musician and composer. He was born in Paris, the youngest son of Jean-Baptiste Lully....

 -- also had musical careers at the French court.


Lully's music is from the Middle Baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 period, 1650 to 1700. Typical of Baroque music
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 is the use of the basso continuo as the driving force behind the music. The pitch standard for French Baroque music was about 392 Hz for A above middle C, a whole tone lower than modern practice where A is usually 440 Hz.

Lully's music is known for its power, liveliness in its fast movements and its deep emotional character in its sad movements. Some of his most popular works are his passacaille (passacaglia
The passacaglia is a musical form that originated in early seventeenth-century Spain and is still used by contemporary composers. It is usually of a serious character and is often, but not always, based on a bass-ostinato and written in triple metre....

) and chaconne
A chaconne ; is a type of musical composition popular in the baroque era when it was much used as a vehicle for variation on a repeated short harmonic progression, often involving a fairly short repetitive bass-line which offered a compositional outline for variation, decoration, figuration and...

which are dance movements found in many of his works such as Armide
Armide (Lully)
Armide is an opera by Jean-Baptiste Lully. The libretto was written by Philippe Quinault, based on Torquato Tasso's La Gerusalemme liberata .Critics in the 18th century regarded Armide as Lully's masterpiece...

or Phaëton
Phaëton (Lully)
Phaëton is a tragédie en musique in a prologue and five acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Philippe Quinault wrote the French libretto after a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It was premiered at Versailles on January 6, 1683, and can be read as an allegorical depiction of the punishment awaiting those...


The influence of Lully's music produced a radical revolution in the style of the dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....

s of the court itself. Instead of the slow and stately movements which had prevailed until then, he introduced lively ballets
Ballet (music)
Ballet as a music form progressed from simply a complement to dance, to a concrete compositional form that often had as much value as the dance that went along with it. The dance form, originating in France during the 17th century, began as a theatrical dance. It was not until the 19th century that...

 of rapid rhythm
Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...

Lully also enjoyed the friendship of Molière
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, was a French playwright and actor who is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature...

, with whom he created a new music form, the comédie-ballet which combined theater, comedy, and ballet. He played a crucial role in synthesizing, consolidating and disseminating orchestral organization, scorings, performance practices, and repertory.

The instruments in his music were: five voices of strings such as dessus (a higher voice range than soprano), haute-contre
The haute-contre is a rare type of high tenor voice, predominant in French Baroque and Classical opera until the latter part of the eighteenth century.-History:...

(a type of high tenor voice), taille (baritenor
Baritenor is a musical term formed by a blend of the words "baritone" and "tenor". It is used to describe both baritone and tenor voices. In Webster's Third New International Dictionary it is defined as "a baritone singing voice with virtually a tenor range"...

), quinte, basse
Bassé is a town in the Bourzanga Department of Bam Province in northern Burkina Faso. It has a population of 2,138.-External links:*...

), divided as follows: one voice of violins, three voices of violas, one voice of cello, and basse de viole (viole, viola da gamba). He also utilized guitar, lute, archlute, theorbo, harpsichord, organ, oboe, bassoon, recorder, flute, brass instruments and various percussion instruments.
He is often credited with introducing new instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

s into the orchestra, but this legend needs closer scrutiny. He continued to use recorders in preference to the newer transverse flute, and the "hautbois" he used in his orchestra were transitional instruments, somewhere between shawms and so-called Baroque oboes..

Lully founded French opera (tragédie en musique or tragédie lyrique), having found Italian-style opera inappropriate for the French language. Having found a congenial poet and librettist in Philippe Quinault
Philippe Quinault
Philippe Quinault , French dramatist and librettist, was born in Paris.- Biography :Quinault was educated by the liberality of François Tristan l'Hermite, the author of Marianne. Quinault's first play was produced at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in 1653, when he was only eighteen...

, Lully composed many operas and other works, which were received enthusiastically. Lully can be considered the founder of French opera, having forsaken the Italian method of dividing musical numbers into separate recitative
Recitative , also known by its Italian name "recitativo" , is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech...

and aria
An aria in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment...

, choosing instead to combine the two for dramatic effect. Lully also opted for quicker story development as was more to the taste of the French public.

Lully's music is still played regularly via recordings at the Palace of Versailles during the summertime in the gardens, setting the mood for one's visit.


Cultural references

  • The relationship between Louis XIV and Lully was depicted in the French film by Gérard Corbiau
    Gérard Corbiau
    Gérard Corbiau is a Belgian film director.Corbiau was born in Brussels, Belgium. He is best known for his costume dramas about music, Le maître de musique , Farinelli and Le roi danse . Two of them were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film...

    , Le Roi danse
    Le Roi Danse
    The King is dancing is a 2000 film by Belgian filmmaker Gérard Corbiau based on Philippe Beaussant's biography of Jean-Baptiste Lully, Lully ou le musicien du soleil . Set in 17th century France, it depicts the life of Jean-Baptiste Lully and his relationship with King Louis XIV of France...

    (The King is dancing) in 2000.

Further reading

For his family, see the article by Jérôme de La Gorce, "Lully's Tuscan Family," pp. 1–15. The rest of the articles focus primarily on his music and its reception. Giannini, Tula. "The Music Library of Jean-Baptiste Christophe Ballard, Sole Music Printer to the King of France, 1750 Inventory of his Grand Collection Brought to Light." Indexed in RILM. See article at the Pratt Institute
Pratt Institute
Pratt Institute is a private art college in New York City located in Brooklyn, New York, with satellite campuses in Manhattan and Utica. Pratt is one of the leading undergraduate art schools in the United States and offers programs in Architecture, Graphic Design, History of Art and Design,...


External links

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