Lulli, John Baptist

, superintendant of music to Louis XIV. was born at Florence in 1634, of obscure parents; but an ecclesiastic, discovering his propensity to music, taught him the practice of the guitar. At ten years of age he was sent to Paris, in order to be a page of Mad. de Montpensier, a niece of Louis XIV. but the lady not liking his appearance, which was mean and unpromising, he was removed into the kitchen as her under-scullian. This degradation, however, did not affect his spirit, for he used, at his leisure, to scrape upon a scurvy fiddle; and, being heard by some person who, had discernment, was mentioned to his mistress as a person of both talents and a hand for music. She then employed a master to teach him the violin; and in a few months he became so good a | proficient, that he was removed from the kitchen to the chamber, and ranked among the musicians.

Being for some offence dismissed from the princess’s service, he got himself entered among the king’s violins; and in a little time became able to compose. Some of his airs being noticed by the king, he called for the author; and was so struck with his performance of them on the violin, of which Lulli was now become A master, that in 1660 he created a new band, called “Les Petits Violons,” and placed him at the head of it. He was afterwards appointed sur-intendant de la musique de la chambre du Roy; and upon this associated himself with Quinault, who was appointed to write the operas; and being now become composer and joint director of the opera, he not only detached himsek' from the former band, and instituted one of his own, but, what is more extraordinary, neglected the violin so much, that he had not even one in his house, and never played upon it afterwards^ except to very few, and in private. On the other hand, to the guitar, a trifling instrument, he retained throughout life such a propensity, that for his amusement he resorted to it voluntarily; and to perform on it even before strangers, needed no incentive. The reason of this seeming perverseness of temper has been thus assigned: “The guitar is an instrument of small estimation among persons skilled in music, the power of performing on it being attained without much difficulty; and, so far as regards the reputation of the performer, it is of small moment whether he plays very well on it or not: but the performance on the violin is a delicate and an arduous energy; which Lulli knowing, set too high a value on the reputation he had acquired when in constant practice, to risk the losing of it.

In 1686, the king was seized with an indisposition which threatened his life; but, recovering from it, Lulli was required to compose a “Te Deum” upon the occasion, and produced one not more remarkable for its excellence, than for the unhappy accident which attended the performance of it. He had neglected nothing in the composition of the music and the preparations for the execution of it; and, the better to demonstrate his zeal, he himself beat the time; but with the care he used for this purpose, he gave himself in the heat of action, a blow upon the end of his foot; and this ending in a gangrene, which baffled all the [efforts of] his surgeons, put an end to his life, March 22, 1687. | The following story is related of this musician in his last illness. Some years before, he had been closely engaged in composing for the opera; from which his confessor took occasion to insinuate, that unless, as a testimony of sincere repentance, he would throw the last of his compositions into the fire, he must expect no absolution. He consented: but one of the young princes coming to see him, when he was grown better, and supposed to be out of danger, “What, Baptiste,” says the prince, “have you thrown your opera into the fire? You were a fool for giving credit thus to a dreaming Jansenist, and burning good music.” “Hush, my lord,” answered Lulli, “I knew very well what I was about; I have a fair copy of it.” Unhappily this ill-timed pleasantry was followed by a relapse: the gangrene increased, and the prospect of inevitable death threw him into such pangs of remorse, that he submitted to be laid upon an heap of ashes, with a cord about his neck. In this situation he expressed a deep sense of his late transgression; and, being replaced in his bed, he, further to expiate his offence, sung to an air of his own composing, the following words: Il faut mourir, pecheur, il faut mourir. Lulli is considered as the person who brought French music to perfection, and his great operas and other pieces were long held in the highest estimation. He was no less remarkable for his humourous talents, than for his musical genius; and even Moliere, who was fond of his company, would often say, “Now, Lulli, make us laugh.

Lulli, says Dr. Burney, was a fortunate man to arrive in a country where music had been so little cultivated, that he never had any rival, nor was there throughout the whole kingdom of France an individual who had the courage to doubt of his infallibility in his art. He was fortunate in so magnificent a patron, and still more fortunate in a lyric poet, who could interest an audience by all the powers of poetry, by the contexture of his fables, and variety and force of his characters. Lulli was rough, rude, and coarse in his manners, but without malice. His greatest frailties were the love of wine and money. There was found in his coffer 630,000 livres in gold, an exorbitant sum for the time in which he lived. 1


Hawkins aad Burney’s Hist, of Music. —Moreri. Perrault Les Hommes lllustres.