French Baroque Music


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An overview about the music in the french court during the Baroque period

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French Baroque Music

  1. 1. 1. Prelude ~ Baroque Music in EuropeIn the periods of European art music, Baroque era approximately extended from 1600 – 1760. Music fromBaroque period has many style influences from Italian, French, English and German Baroque [1]. Themusic has transition characteristics between the Renaissance and Classical era. Most of the musiccompositions in the Baroque are rich in improvisation of the lead instrument.Baroque musicians were not concerned with expressing their ownfeelings and emotions. One of the reasons why the Baroque music is to besomewhat cold is because some of the music instruments (two mainpopular instruments at that time are organ and harpsichord – Figure 1)had not been constructed perfectly, such as no pedal for sustaining andless dynamical function. To deal with such condition, the Baroquemusicians used more elaborate musical ornamentation and complicatedmelody.The lead figure of Baroque music is Johann Sebastian Bach, who was notonly the composer but also a teacher for many musicians andadministrator. The most well-known typical Baroque song from Bach is„Tocatta and Fugue in D minor‟. Beside Bach, there are also other Baroquemusicians: G.F. Handel with his “Sarabande”, Antonio Vivaldi with hisbeautiful “Four Seasons”, Jean-Baptiste Lully who had a strong influence Figure 1 Harpsichordin French Baroque (we will discuss later), Claudio Monteverdi, andHenry Purcell.Baroque composers wrote in wide range of musical genres. For example, the Opera, Ouverture(commonly as the beginning from Baroque suite), Courante (lively French dance), Sarabande (Spanishdance), Gigue (lively Baroque dance music), Gavotte, Bourrée (French dance in even meter), and Minuet.Baroque period also gave special contributions to keyboard practice, such as Tocattas, Partitas, Fugues,and Capricios. 2. French BaroqueThe early Baroque music began in Italy with the most leading figure, Claudio Monteverdi at that era.Meanwhile, France contributed more in the middle Baroque music era (1654 – 1707) and late Baroquemusic (1680 – 1750). Jean-Baptiste Lully, an Italian of noble birth who journeyed to France, is the greatcourt-style composer in middle Baroque. The Lullian French Ouverture influenced most composers of thelater Baroque composition. It consists of two contrasting halves repeated twice (AABB) or can be called inbinary. The famous French-style Ouverture is also being one of his contributions in Baroque music [2]. Music in the French Court during the Baroque Period Page 1
  2. 2. 3. Music in the Reign of Louis XIV In the French court of King Louis XIV, music is used to portray the king as a brilliant god-like figure of absolute importance to the state. The king used art as a tool for political gain with the help of his ministers and court composers. When Louis XIV was four years old, his father passed away, leaving him to reign as King of France. Jules Mazarin, the Italian-born chief minister guided Louis XIV‟s interest to the arts of dance and music in the young king‟s formative years. Cardinal Mazarin encouraged the prominent role of music in courtly life. Mazarin brought the Italian opera and wanted to see it spread to France. Unfortunately, the French opera has different style with Italian opera; it Figure 2 Louis XIV was primarily influenced by the court ballet and the classical French tragedy [3].Louis XIV used music performances in the court as entertainment for the localaristocracy and visiting nobles in an effort to "impress Europe and the whole world withthe splendor and brilliance of French culture." [4]. This strategy was very successful toattract the king‟s guests as stated in [5]: "Foreign royalty and diplomats who attendedthese performances took back glowing reports of French culture and the state of themonarchy."Louis XIV was also a skillful performing dancer and gave an important contributionfor the ballet. His most well-known was a series of dances in Le Ballet Royal de la Nuitand for his final piece he appeared as Apollo, clad in clothing to make him resemblethe god of the sun where in fact, he earned his well-known title, Le Roi Soleil or TheSun King. Figure 3 Le Roi Soleil3.1 Jean Baptiste Lully and French Baroque Music Mazarin brought Jean Baptiste Lully, (born in Florence, 28 November 1632), an Italian ballet master, to take up service in 1653 at the Court of Louis XIV. In that year, Lully and Louis XIV danced in the same ballet together for the first time in Le Ballet Royal de la Nuit. Lully‟s early career in court music was focused on the genre of ballet. During his tenure in French court at the Tuileries, Lully began studying composition and harpsichord [3]. Lully quickly became one of Louis XIVs favorite and in less than ten years, Lully gained total control over all of the royal family‟s court music. Lully was also aggressive in business. He bought up the leading theater venues, and to strengthen his position he even persuaded the king to limit the number of Figure 4 Royal Danse musicians that could perform with other Parisian theater troupes [6]. Music in the French Court during the Baroque Period Page 2
  3. 3. Lully was careful to create music that he knew the king would enjoy. Most of his operas texts praised themonarchy and built up the kings position as absolute ruler. In this way, he could strengthen his positionand power throughout France. His operas and sacred works displayed a richness and majesty whichwould attract the interest admiration of king‟s guests [9].During Louis XIV‟s reign, dance music shaped what was to be later known as French music. The work ofJean-Baptiste Lully shapes the French styles of opera and ballet. Though Lully was simply a highly paidservant of the court, his strong position elevated him “as absolute a sovereign in music as Louis XIV was instate affairs."[8] Figure 5 Jean-Baptiste LullyTragically, he died after suffering a fatal injury while conducting his Te Deum in 1687 which wasperformed for the celebration of the King‟s recovery from an illness. However, his music did not die thatday; Lully also has greatly influence music in England. Charles-I sent his own musicians to France tolearn how to emulate the style that was so typical from one of the greatest French composers ever [3]. 4. French Court Music after Baroque Period (Brief Overview) After Lully [9], Jean-Philippe Rameau was the important French opera composer in late Baroque music period. The music in after Baroque, which is called Rococo period (1725 - 1775) was the reaction against the Baroque style. Rococo era was characterized by the desire to systematize all knowledge, and it was also very presents in the music scene. Jean-Philippe Rameau tried to establish a rational foundation for the harmonic practice of this time and his Treatise on Harmony (1722) set the point of departure for modern music theory. Rococo music style is different from Baroque; it would Figure 6 Jean-Philippe Rameau be simple, expressive and natural feeling. Traces of Rococo are present in the early works of Haydn and Mozart [2]. In classical music period, the French courtinvited famous musicians. In 18 November 1783, Mozart family reached Paris and was invited to theking‟s palace at Versailles. Wolfgang A. Mozart and sister Nannerl as the child prodigy performed to thesociety Parisienne for the nobility of the city [5]. Music in the French Court during the Baroque Period Page 3
  4. 4. 5. Music in VersaillesThe major influence of France in the Baroque age was one of courtly opulence. In 1669 Louis XIV decidedto convert an old hunting lodge at Versailles into a palace of unprecedented magnificence and the courtmoved there in 1683. There was not a European court could match Versailles for the opulence of itsluxury interiors, chandeliers, mirrors, or flamboyance court ceremony [7].In fact, Louis and his country were overburdened bythe debts which the costly Versailles imposed onthem. Then, during the later years of the 1600s,France suffered famines and disastrous militarydefeats. Versailles started to lose the splendor andended as the king died in 1715. In contrast, this was arebirth of non-Lullyan music in Paris - musicalfreedom was reborn in Paris, with a boom in sheet-music printing and music lessons [7]. Figure 7 Château de VersaillesAfter the reign of Louis XIV, the music in Versailles arose during Louis XVI time. Since Marie Antoinettehas Austrian heritage, no wonder she adored music. She grew up listening to the works of Viennesemasters in a court rich with the arts. At an early age, she learned how to play the harpsichord. Herappreciation for emotionally resonating music grew once she moved to Versailles. She attended operasand threw fabulous parties replete with music and dancing. As shown in this 1774 painting by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty (Figure 8), she played the harp before the French court in her chamber [10]. Figure 8 Queen Chamber in Versailles (Left: Chamber Current Condition, Right: painting of Marie Antoinette)5.1 Music as Political Tool in VersaillesLully developed elegance of the French musical style and the splendor of the French court. Music wasused by Louis XIV as a "pliable political tool; rarely in history have the relations between politics and music lainmore openly on the surface than during the French absolutism." [8]. The court atmosphere of Louis XIV could Music in the French Court during the Baroque Period Page 4
  5. 5. make every noble guests emulating for their own glory and used music as a form of propaganda for thepolitical power.Louis desired that the music would be a reflection of his absolute rule and the throne. He made sure thathis own agenda was promoted through the music of the day. Likewise, Lully as a court musician alsoused his position to promote his own objectives that allowed him to exert his personal musical style inFrance [6].Some literatures in France often hide the fact that Louis XIV was a music-loving king. But actually the factis the salons and galleries of Versailles (as well as the private apartments of the king) were used for musicand theatre. The music that came from the French court of this time would not have been possiblewithout the contributions Louis XIV made to support and further French music.Today, Chateau de Versailles still vibrates its music, especially with the presence of “Versailles BaroqueMusic Center”, which has annual concert/event program. 6. Coda ~ Contributions of French Baroque Music6.1 Académie Royale de MusiqueLouis XIV obviously played an important part in the early development of ballet, opera, and FrenchBaroque music in general. Académie Royale de Danse, the worlds first ballet school was established byLouis XIV in 1661 in a room of the Louvre. In 1669, Lully‟s monopoly was solidified when Louis XIVcreated the Academie Royale de Musique and appointed Lully to run the Academie. By establishingstate-sponsored academies, Louis XIV expected that he would be the main source of inspiration. Musiccompositions were frequently dedicated to the king and royal permission had to be granted before workscould be based on royal subjects. Indeed, Louis XIV bestowed various musical positions on Lully,including „Music Master to the Royal Family’. [7] Figure 9 Academie Royale de Musique in Paris (Left: Outdoor view. Right: Inside the opera) Music in the French Court during the Baroque Period Page 5
  6. 6. The king retired from dancing in 1671, because of his age and in 1672 Lully established a dance academywithin the Académie Royale de Musique. In Académie Royale de Musique, Lully worked with librettist,Philippe Quinault and created works with clear links to the political successes of Louis XIV [5].Nowadays, Académie Royale de Musique still survives as the Paris Opera – the world‟s oldest primaryopera company. It is used for opera and ballet performances by the "Opéra national de Paris". Meanwhile,this building was re-named "Théâtre National de lOpéra de Paris" in 1978. Then, after the opening of theOpéra Bastille in 1989, it was renamed "Palais Garnier”. Another interesting fact is, in 1896, one of thecounterweights for the grand chandelier fell, killing one. This incident and the elements of the operabuilding were the inspiration for the world famous opera, “The Phantom of the Opera”.6.2 Japanese band with French Royal StylesFrench Baroque court music still have some influences in modern music trend. In Asia, some Japanesebands were inspired by classical baroque French, such as Versailles-Philharmonic Quintet and MaliceMizer. In their performance and stage-act, they show strong French-influenced characteristics. Forinstances, they always wear the costumes which are uniquely designed like the costumes used in theFrance royals of the Versailles. . Figure 2 Japanese Bands in Royal French styles: Versailles (Left) and Malice Mizer (Right)However, their genres are not the classical Baroque music with full orchestra or played for the royalballet. Their genres are rock, but with the typical Baroque melodies which rich in improvisation and aresomehow cold. Most of their songs use some French words and sometimes the lyrics tell about themystical-lovely French-royal story.References [1] - accessed in 7 october 2010 [2] - accessed in 7 october 2010 [3] - accessed in 7 october 2010 [4] chrystelle t. bond, "louis xiv," dance teacher 27, no. 9 (september 2005): 82. [5] julie a. sadie, the new grove dictionary of music and musicians, 218. [6] accessed in 14 october 2010 [7] accessed in 14 october 2010 [8] manfred f. bukofzer, music in the baroque era, 152. [9] schmidt, carl b. jean-baptiste lully and the music of the french baroque . edited by john h heyer. cambridge: cambridge university press, 1989. [10] accessed in 17october 2010 Music in the French Court during the Baroque Period Page 6