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Classic Baroque Music

Jean Baptiste Lully
French Composer 1632-1687

Henry Purcell
English Composer 1659-1695


Jean-Baptiste Lully
born in Florence on 28 November 1632; died in Paris on 22 March 1687.

Italian by birth, Lully made his career in France, where he rose from the position of a page to Mlle de Montpensier to that of Composer of the King's Music, Master of Music to the Royal Family and to a position of complete control of all musical performances that involved singing throughout. He collaborated with Molière and with Corneille and, more particularly, with the poet Quinault, creating a specifically French form of opera in various genres, comédies-ballets and tragédies lyriques, in both of which there was an element of dance, a French royal preoccupation. He was the most important French composer of his period, influential in his development of the so-called French Overture.

He was taken from Florence to Paris in 1646 by Roger de Lorraine, Chevalier de Guise, who placed him in the service of his niece, Mlle de Montpensier. At her court in the Tuileries Lully got to know the best in French music and, despite his patroness's dislike of Mazarin and her involvement in the Fronde, he was no stranger to Italian music either. After the defeat of the Frondists, Mlle de Montpensier was exiled to St. Fargeau. Lully obtained release from her service and on the death of his friend Lazzarini, in 1653, was appointed Louis XIV's compositeur de la musique instrumentale. From 1655 his fame as dancer, comedian and composer grew rapidly, and his disciplined training of the king's 'petite bande' earned him further recognition. In 1661 he was made surintendant de la musique et compositeur de la musique de la chambre and in 1662 maître de la musique de la famille royale. By then he was a naturalised Frenchman, and in July 1662 he married Madeleine, daughter of the composer Michel Lambert.

Lully then collaborated with Molière on a series of comédies-ballets which culminated in Le bourgeois gentilhomme (1670). After that he turned to opera, securing the privilege previously granted to Perrin and forestalling potential rivals with oppressive patents granted by the king. He chose as librettist Philippe Quinault, with whom he succeeded in establishing a new and essentially French type of opera known as tragédie lyrique. Between 1673 and 1686 Lully composed 13 such works, 11 of them with Quinault.

Lully was also influential in the choice of music and musicians for the royal chapel. His compositions for the church include a number of motets, some six Grands motets and 14 Petits motets. An example of the first is the fine setting of the Dies Irae from the Requiem Mass, for double choir, of the Te Deum, and the Miserere, the last a favourite of the king. Examples of the second are his settings of the Vespers Psalm Dixit Dominus, the Anima Christi and the Regina coeli.

During this time Lully continued to enjoy the king's support and his greatest personal triumph came in 1681 when in an impressive ceremony he was received as secrétaire du Roi. After 1683 life at court took on a new sobriety; it was perhaps in response to this that Lully composed much of his religious music. During a performance of his Te Deum in January 1687 he injured his foot with the point of a cane he was using to beat time. Gangrene set in, and within three months he died, leaving a tragédie lyrique, Achille et Polyxène, unfinished.

At his death Lully was widely regarded as the most representative of French composers. Practically all his music was designed to satisfy the tastes and interests of Louis XIV. The ballets de cour (1653-63) and the comédies-ballets (1663-72) were performed as royal entertainment, the king himself often taking part in the dancing. The tragédies lyriques (1673-86) were kingly operas par excellence, expressing a classical conflict between la gloire and l'amour; Louis himself supplied the subject matter for at least four of them and certainly approved the political sentiments of the prologues. 

Henry Purcell
born in 1659: died in 1695.

Title Type Date
Dido and Aeneas opera 1689
The Prophetess
(The History of Dioclesian)
semi-opera 1690
King Arthur
(The British Worthy)
semi-oper 1691
The Fairy Queen semi-opera 1692
The Indian Queen semi-opera 1695
The Tempest
(The Enchanted Island)
semi-opera 1695
Title Date Recipient
Welcome, Viceregent of the Mighty King  1680  Charles II
Swifter, Isis, Swifter Flow  1681  Charles II
What, What Shall be Done in Behalf of Man?  1682  Duke of York
The Summer's Absence Unconcerned We Bear  1682  Charles II
Fly, Bold Rebellion  1683  Charles II
From Those Serene and Rapturous Joys  1684 Charles II
Why, Why are all the Muses mute?  1685  James II
Ye Tuneful Muses  1686  James II
Sound the Trumpet  1687  James II 

Music on the Death of Queen Mary, 1695

Queen Mary's death in 1695 was a deep blow to the country. The daughter of James II, who had been crowned Queen of England together with her husband William III, Prince of Orange, in 1688, at the Glorious Revolution, was well-loved throughout the country and the funeral was to show her people's devotion to their late Queen. One also has to bear in mind that funeral rituals in this period for such high status persons were extremely staged and splendid affairs in their sombre greatness and perfection. Thus no expense was spared at the Queen's funeral, a testimony indeed to reflect the public's devotion. 
Sir Christopher Wren himself, the architect of the new Saint Paul's cathedral, which was destroyed in the 1660s during the great fire of London, had ensured that the route to Westminster was lined with black railings. The procession must have been awe inspiring. Horses decked in black, everyone of status in the black and white mourning robes, and three hundred sombre old women who led the entourage, and of course the funeral coach itself; the old women dressed all in black capes with boys carrying their trains. 
Purcell's mesmerising choral music, its bittersweet quality, gave the perfect, soul touching surrounding for this great and sad affair, so full of melancholic emotions it was. The lyrics are so atmospheric as to leave the listener motionless in the stark loneliness and vulnerability of the knowledge of all humans' mortality.

Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; 
neither take thou vengeance of our sins, good Lord. 
Spare thy people whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood; 
and be not angry with us for ever. Spare us, good Lord.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; 
I will praise my God while I have my being, and so shall my words please him. 
My joy shall be in the Lord; 
as for sinners, they shall be consumed out of the earth and the ungodly shall come to an end. 
But praise ye the Lord, O my soul, praise the Lord.

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee. 
My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh also longeth after thee in a barren and dry land where no water is. 
Thus have I looked for thee in holiness that I might behold thy power and glory. 
For thy loving kindness is better than life itself; my lips shall praise thee. 
As long as I live will I magnify thee on this manner and lift up my hands in thy name, because thou hast been my helper. 
Therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice, Hallelujah.

Oh God, the king of glory, who has exalted thine only son Jesus Christ our Lord with great triumph into heaven. 
We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless, but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, 
and exalt us unto the same place where our saviour Christ is gone before us. Amen.

Lord, how long wilt thou be angry? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire for ever? 
O remember not our old sins, but have mercy upon us, and that soon, for we are come to great misery. 
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name; 
O deliver us, and be merciful unto our sins, for thy name's sake. 
So we that are thy people and the sheep of thy pasture shall give thee thanks for ever, 
and will always be showing forth thy praise from one generation to another.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my crying come unto thee.
Blow up the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, gather the people, and sanctify the congregation. 
Assemble the elders, gather the children and those that suck the breasts. 
Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 
Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, 
and let them say: spare thy people, O Lord. 
And give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them. 
Wherefore should they say among the people: where is their God?

O God thou hast cast us out and scattered us abroad. 
Thou hast also been displeased; O turn thee unto us again. 
Thou hast moved the land and divided it; heal the sores thereof for it shateth. 
O be thou our help in trouble for vain is the help of man. 
Through God will we do great acts and it is he that shall tread down our enemies. Amen.

Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live and is full of miser. 
He cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow and ne'er continueth in one stay.
In the midst of Life we are in death; 
of whom may we seek for succour but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? 
Yet, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; 
shut not thy merciful ears unto our prayers, but spare us, Lord most holy. 
O God most mighty, O holy and most merciful saviour, though most worthy judge eternal, 
suffer us not at our last hour for any pains of death to fall away from thee. 

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