Jean-Baptiste Lully

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Giovanni Battista Lulli was born on November 28, 1632. His father, Lorenzo di Maldo, was a miller and his mother, Caterina del Sera, was a miller’s daughter. Lully was born in Florence, Italy and lived there until age 11. While in Italy he studied dance and music; he played violin and guitar. In March of 1646 he moved to France to tutor Mlle de Montpensier in Italian. There he studied composition and harpsichord. Lully was able to hear the King’s grande bande perform, witness balls where the best French dance music was played.
When Mlle de Montpensier was exiled from Paris, Lully was released from her service and gained the attention of King Louis XIV. In February 1653 he danced in “Ballet de la nuit” with the King and less than a month later was appointed the King’s “composituer de la musique instrumentale de Roi.” Over the next ten years Lully gained control over all the royal family’s court music. This is when he began experimenting with performance practices and changing the basic stylistic features of orchestral music. Lully’s “petits violons” brought him international fame.
At this point Lully focused his career on ballets. They brought together Lully’s two favorite expressions of art: dance and music. The dances he composed shaped what is now known as “French music.” Between 1658 and 1671 Lully wrote thirty ballets. During this ballet frenzy he received his French citizenship and changed his name from Lulli to Lully. He also elevated his father’s status to “gentilhomme Florentin.” Also in 1661 Lully was appointed the composer of chamber music for the King. In 1664 Lully collaborated with Jean-Baptiste Molière and started composing comédies-ballets. He didn’t thing the French language was appropriate for large works but was good for ballets.
Perrin, a French composer, introduced opera around this time and Lully thought it was absurd. However, when Perrin’s “Promone” succeeded, Lully changed his mind. Perrin ended up in prison over a money dispute and Lully bought the opera patent from him. This gave him complete control of French operatic performances. Then in 1673 Molière died and the King granted the patent for the Royal Theater to Lylly also. Lully’s new operatic style grew out of his popular ballets. He kept the overture, entry music for the dancers, atmosphere and action symphonies, and some of the dances themselv...

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...ed. Instrumentalists would only be used in scenes where an instrumentalist would normally be found in life: weddings, festivals, etc.
Lully’s influence on the orchestra cannot be overstressed. He dramatically affected its style and importance. His orchestra was emulated all over Europe. Many of the characteristics that Lully developed are still in use today.

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Anthony, James R., H. Wiley Hitchcock, Edward Higginbottom, Graham Sadler, Albert Cohen. “French Baroque Masters.” The New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians. W.W. Norton and Company, 1986. p. 1-63

Buelow, George J., “Music and Society in the Late Baroque Era.” Music and Society in the Late Baroque Era. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1994. p. 1-38

Harman, Alec and Anthony Milner. Late Renaissance and Baroque Music. Fairlawn: Essential Books, 1957.

Heyer, John Hadju. Lully Studies. Cambridge Universal Press, 2000.

Lewis, W. H., The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV. Waveland Press, 1997

Newman, Joyce. Jean-Baptiste de Lully and His Tragédies Lyrique. UMI Research Press, 1979.
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