Saturday, 29 June 2013


“Whether you like it or not, Paris is the beating heart of Western civilisation. It’s where it all began and ended.” - Alan Furst

As we progress towards the Southern Midwinter, it is good to be able to enjoy some sunny days, even though they are cold. The nights have been very cold with frost or fog, yet not unpleasant enough to not walk about in.

For Music Saturday, some gems from the French Baroque: Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) for  L’ Orchestre du Roi Soleil. Symphonies, Ouvertures & Airs à jouer. “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”; “Le Divertissement Royal”; “Alceste’; Chaconne de “L’ Amour Médecin” played by Le Concert des Nations directed by Jordi Savall. In Federation Square the other day a busker was playing one of the menuets from here. Just goes to show what a cultured place I live in!

Jean-Baptiste Lully (Italian: Giovanni Battista Lulli) 28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687, 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. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in 1661.

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. 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) and chaconne, which are dance movements found in many of his works such as Armide or Phaëton.

The influence of Lully's 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 theatre, 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 synthesising, consolidating and disseminating orchestral organisation, scorings, performance practices, and repertory.

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