Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/185

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LULLI.
173
 

whom he introduced on the stage, to the great delight of the spectators. For the 'recitativo secco' of the Italians he substituted accompanied recitative, and in this very important part of French opera scrupulously conformed to the rules of prosody, and left models of correct and striking declamation. On the other hand, he made no attempt to vary the form of his airs, but slavishly cut them all after the fashion set by Cavalli in his operas, and by Rossi, and Carissimi in their cantatas. But although the 'chanson à couplets,' the 'air-complainte' (or 'arioso' as we call it), and the 'air declamé' afterwards brought to such perfection by Gluck unduly predominate in his works, that monotony of form is redeemed by a neatness of execution and a sweetness of expression worthy of all praise. He thoroughly understood the stage—witness the skill with which he introduces his choruses; had a true sense of proportion, and a strong feeling for the picturesque. The fact that his works are not forgotten, but are still republished, in spite of the progress of the lyric drama during the last 200 years, is sufficient proof of his genius. Not but that he has serious faults. His instrumentation, though often laboured, is poor, and his harmony not always correct: a great sameness of treatment disfigures his operas, and the same rhythm and the same counterpoint serve to illustrate the rage of Roland and the rocking of Charon's boat. Such faults are obvious to us; but they were easily passed over at such a period of musical revolution. It is a good maxim that in criticising works of art of a bygone age we should put them back in their original frames; and according to this rule we have no right to demand from the composer of 'Thésée,' 'Atys,' 'Isis,' 'Phaéton,' and 'Armide' outbursts of passion or agitation which would have disturbed the solemn majesty of his royal master, and have outraged both stage propriety and the strict rules of court etiquette. The chief business of the King's Surintcndant de la musique undoubtedly was to please his master, who detested brilliant passages and lively melodies; and making due allowance for these circumstances we affirm that Lully's operas exhibit the grace and charm of Italian melody and a constant adherence to that good taste which is the ruling spirit of French declamation. Such qualities as these will always be appreciated by impartial critics.

Lully was also successful in sacred music. Ballard published his motets for double choir in 1684, and a certain number of his sacred pieces, copied by Philidor, exist in the libraries of Versailles and of the Conservatoire. Mme, de Sevigné's admiration of his 'Miserere' and 'Libera' (Letter, May 6, 1672) is familiar to all. Equally well known is the manner of his death. While conducting a Te Deum (Jan. 8, 1687) in honour of the King's recovery from a severe illness, he accidentally struck his foot with the bâton; an abscess followed; the quack in whose hands he placed himself proved incompetent, and he died in his own house in the Rue de la Ville-l'Evêque on Saturday, March 22.

As both Surintendant de la musique and secretary to Louis XIV, Lully was in high favour at court, and being extremely avaricious, used his opportunities to amass a large fortune. At his death he left 4 houses, all in the best quarters of Paris, besides securities and appointments valued at 342,000 livres (about £14,000). His wife Madeleine, daughter of Lambert the singer, whom he married July 24, 1662, and by whom he had three sons and three daughters, shared his economical tastes. For once laying aside their parsimonious habits, his family erected to his memory a splendid monument surmounted by his bust, which still exists in the left-hand chapel of the church of the 'Petits Pères,' near the Place des Victoires. Cotton[1] was the sculptor, and the well-known Latin epitaph was composed by Santeul:—

Perfida mors, inimica, audax, temeraria et excors,
Crudelisque, e cæca probris te absolvimus istis,
Non de te querimur tua sint haec munia magna.
Sed quando per te populi regisque voluptas,
Non ante auditis rapuit qui cautibus orbem
Lullius eripitur, querin ur modo surda fuisti.

'Lulli musicien,' a pamphlet to which both Fétis and the author of this article are greatly indebted, was chiefly compiled by the Prévost d'Exmes from various articles written by Sénecé, de Fresneuse, and Titon du Tillet. There are many portraits of Lully, of which the best-known are those engraved by Edelinck, Thomas, St. Aubin (from the bust by Colignon), and Desrochers. Mignard's portrait of him has been lost, and the full-length engraving by Bonnard, which forms the frontispiece to the score of 'Psyché,' published by Fourcault, is now extremely scarce. Our engraving is copied from Edelinck.

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Lully's eldest son, Louis, born in Paris Aug. 4, 1664, died about 1715, composed with his brother Jean Louis 'Zéphire et Flore,' 5 acts (1688),

  1. Not Cosson, as Fétis has called him.