Jean-Baptiste Lully: Notes and Commentary

“Since opera had originated, and had first developed, in Italy before penetrating the rest of Europe, it is appropriate to find an Italian and not a Frenchman as the fiunder of the French opera. He was Jean-Baptiste Lully.”—David Ewen, The Complete Book of Classical Music

Jean-Baptiste Lully (Giovanni Battista Lulli in Italian) was a Florentine-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French baroque style, and became a French subject in 1661. He lived from 1632 to 1687.

Lully’s music was written during the Middle Baroque period, 1650 to 1700. Typical of Baroque music is the use of the basso continuo as the driving force behind the music.
His music is known for its power, liveliness, and deep emotional character. Some of his most popular works are his passacaille (passacaglia) and chaconne, which are dance movements found in many of his works, including Armide or Phaëton.

His music produced a radical revolution in the style of the dances of the court itself. In the place of the slow and stately movements which had prevailed until then, he introduced lively ballets of rapid rhythm, often based on well-known dance types such as gavottes, menuets, rigaudons, and sarabandes.

Through his collaboration with playwright Molière, a new music form emerged during the 1660s: the comédie-ballet, which combined theater, comedy, incidental music, and ballet. The popularity of these plays, with their sometimes lavish special effects, and the success and publication of Lully’s operas and its diffusion beyond the borders of France, played a crucial role in synthesizing, consolidating, and disseminating orchestral organization, scorings, performance practices, and repertory.—Excerpted from Wikipedia

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