Jean-Baptiste Lully, classical music composer

Jean-Baptiste Lully image

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Biography

Without a doubt, Jean-Baptiste Lully was France's leading composer during the Baroque period. While he almost single-handedly shaped French music during his lifetime and afterwards, Lully was actually born an Italian on November 28, 1632 in Florence. As a young child, he received little formal education and learned only the basics of playing the guitar from a Franciscan friar. However, in 1646, his inherent talent was enough for Roger de Lorraine, the chevalier de Guise, to take him to France and he was entered into the service of Mademoiselle de Montpensier. Serving as a scullery-boy, Lully was taught to dance and studied music with Nicolas Métru, an organist and viol player who also taught Couperin.

In 1652, Mlle de Montpensier was exiled and Lully left her court. By now, a talented dancer and musician, his skills brought him to the attention of the young King Louis XIV and became a dancer in the king's service. After composing some music for the Ballet de la nuit, Louis XIV appointed him leader of the Petits Violons, the king's own private violin band. Lully's favor in the king's court continued to grow and in 1671, he was appointed the Superintendent of Music. Eventually, he was even given complete control over all music performed in France by the king.

Throughout his initial years in service to King Louis XIV, Lully composed many ballets for the court, in which both Lully and the king himself danced. Lully's music revolutionized the dance, introducing livelier ballets in place of the slow, stately dances that had prevailed before then. With the aid of Molière, Lully also created the genre known as comédie-ballet which mixed spoken plays with dance and music numbers.

As Louis XIV aged, however, his interest in ballet, as well as his ability to dance, waned and in response Lully turned his attention on operas. Though Italian opera reigned supreme throughout Europe, Lully abandoned the Italian methods finding them unsuitable for the French language. Removing the divisions between recitative and aria and placing a greater emphasis on story development, Lully became the father of French opera and the foremost opera composer in France.

In January, 1687, while conducting a performance of a Te Deum to celebrate the king's recovery from an illness, Lully struck his toe with a long staff that he was using to beat time. The wound became gangrenous, yet he refused to have the toe amputated. The gangrene inevitably spread and on March 22, Lully died from the injury.


Composer Title Date Action
Jean-Baptiste Lully Suite from Bourgeois gentillomme 09/17/2010 Play Add to playlist
Jean-Baptiste Lully Belle Hermione, hélas, hélas, from Cadmus et Hermione 11/25/2012 Play Add to playlist
Jean-Baptiste Lully Prologue, from Alceste, ou le Triomphe d'Alcide 11/25/2013 Play Add to playlist