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le baroque


Académie de Musique et de Poésie |
The first Académie in France, founded in 1570 by poet Jean-Antoine de Baïf and musician Joachim Thibault de Courville under the auspices of Charles IX of France. Poets and musicians gathered there to reflect on combining their art forms.
Académie Royale de Danse |
The institution was founded in 1661 by Louis XIV to set down dance forms and dance steps, standardise interpretation, codify techniques and provide instruction. It was disbanded in the 1780's.
Académie Royale de Musique (Opéra de Paris) |
The institution was founded in Paris in 1669 at the instigation of Jean-Baptiste Colbert. First known as the Académie d'opéra, its chief role was to promote French opera via public performances, not just in Paris but in other towns around France.
Air de cour |
An aristrocratic genre of vocal chamber music popular during the reign of Henry IV of France and Louis XIII.
Anne of Austria |
Queen of France from 1615 to 1643, and wife of Louis XIII. She was Regent until her son Louis XIV came of age. Born in Spain in 1601, she was Infante of Spain and Portugal, Archduchess of Austria and Princess of Burgundy and the Netherlands. She died in 1666.
Antiphon |
A liturgical usually monodic chant, featuring alternating soloists and choir.
Aubert, Jacques |
Taught by Jean-Baptiste Senallié, he quickly became one of the foremost violinists of his generation (1689-1753). After working for the Prince of Condé, he entered the service of the King. He joined the court's prestigious string ensemble, the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roi, he also played with the opera orchestra, notably alongside Francœur and Rebel, and with the Concert Spirituel. His compositions include symphonic concert trios in the Italian style, which was very popular in Paris at the time. Aubert was one of the leading precursors of the violin concertante style in France, a generation before Leclair.
Bach, Johann Christian |
Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782) was the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He came to Berlin with his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel in 1750 to complete his musical education. He conducted count Antonio Litta's orchestra in Milan from 1754 to 1760, and then became cathedral organist. His period in Italy familiarised him with the art of opera seria, at which he excelled. He moved to England in 1762, and soon became known as the 'London Bach'. He served as Queen Charlotte's music master and founded several public concert societies. In 1764 he met the young prodigy Mozart on a visit with his family and held him in deep admiration. Johann Christian Bach composed symphonies, operas, concertos and a range of chamber music. He also tried his hand at a French tragédie lyrique, composing Amadis de Gaule for the Opéra de Paris.
Bach, Johann Sebastian |
German composer, organist and vioinist (1685-1750) who spent much of his career in Leipzig. He was dubbed the 'father of music' and hailed as a central figure in the world of music. He composed sacred works (cantatas, motets, Masses and Passions, etc.) as well as a large number of instrumental pieces for all kinds of ensembles, and several drammi per musica.
Ballet |
A dramatic genre combining dance and music, born during the Renaissance. It could be performed by professionals or amateurs, in official venues or elsewhere (outdoors, in salons, on stage, etc.).
Ballet de cour |
A form of entertainment which first appeared at the Valois court in the late 16th century, involving poetry, vocal & instrumental music, choreography and scenography. Narratives provided the storyline and commentary.
Ballet héroïque |
Similar to an opéra-ballet but featuring heroic figures from Antiquity and a more lighthearted atmosphere than in a tragédie lyrique.
Baritone |
A male singing voice, between tenor and bass, from low to medium pitch.
Bas-dessus (or contralto) |
A vocal or instrumental range between alto (haut-contre) and soprano (dessus).
Bass |
The lowest vocal or instrumental musical range.
Basse-taille |
A vocal or instrumental range corresponding to baritone, between tenor and bass.
Bassoon |
A bassoon is a double-reed bass woodwind instrument, curved at the bottom with a bell at the top. The tube is double the length as it bends back on itself. It is used as both a solo and continuo G21instrument.
Beauchamp, Pierre |
French composer, dancer and choreographer (1631-1705) who made a great impact on dance in France. He produced a treatise on dance and choreographed many of Lully's compositions and Molière's comédies-ballets. He was appointed director of the Académie Royale de Danse in 1680.
Belle Danse |
The name given to the noble style of dance prevalent in France in the 17th century. Now known as 'baroque dance', it is the precursor of classical ballet which was codified in the 19th century.
Benserade, Isaac de |
French poet and librettist (1613-1691), known chiefly for providing the words for 23 court ballets. He was a protégé of Richelieu, Anne of Austria, Philippe d'Orléans, Mazarin and Louis XIV.
Bérain, Jean |
Draughtsman, designer, decorator, painter, watercolorist, engraver and ornamentalist (1640-1711). He studied under Henri de Gissey and succeeded him as decorator of the King's chamber and office in 1675. He supervised the organisation of court festivities, masked balls and royal funerals and the decor and stage machinery at the Opera. His son Jean Berain (1674-1726) took over from him in 1704.
Berlioz, Hector |
French Romantic composer (1803-1869) who ventured into all types of music and boldly mixed genres.
Bernier, Nicolas |
Nicolas Bernier (1665-1734), after studying music probably at the collegiate church in his home town Mantes-la-Jolie, went to Italy to perfect his art. In 1694, he was appointed master of music at Chartres cathedral and only returned to Paris in 1698 to serve as master of music at Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church. Six years later he became master of the Sainte-Chapelle in the wake of Charpentier. He held this prestigious post for 22 years and stepped down in 1726. From 1723 onwards he was assistant music master at the Royal Chapel and composed several grands motets before he died. He also wrote many petits motets and French cantatas, showing himself to be an accomplished melodist and counterpointist.
Blavet, Michel |
Self-taught French composer (1700-1768), brilliant bassoonist and virtuoso flautist. His first concertos and sonatas were very successful at the Concert Spirituel, and his sonatas aere considered consummate works for the tranverse flute. From 1731 to1735 he performed at the Concert Spirituel, notably alongside Jean-Marie Leclair, Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville and Jacques Aubert. Appointed official royal musician in 1736, he joined the Musique du Roi two years later, where he remained for the next 30 years. From 1740 onwards he was also flautist with the Paris opera, and created an ensemble comprising two flutes, a viola da gamba and cello which introduced Telemann's quartets to the public. He produced the first French opera buffa based on Italian interludes called Le Jaloux corrigé in 1752.
Boësset, Antoine |
Born in Blois, Boësset (1586-1643) was one of Louis 13th's favourite musicians. He was music tutor for the children of the Musique de la Chambre du Roi (1613) , then for the Queen (1615). He inherited the post of Superintendent of the King's music in 1622 from his father-in-law Guédron, whom he consequently outshone. He helped produce court ballets for 30 years including La Délivrance de Renaud (1617), Le Ballet de la Reyne représentant le Soleil (1621), Le Ballet des Dandins (1626), Le Grand Bal de la douairière de Billebahaut (1626) and Le Ballet de la Félicité (1639). He also wrote nine books of 4-5 part airs de cour and five books of airs with lute tablature, as well as other collections of airs. Boësset moved Guédron style melodramatic ballets de cour towards ballets à entrées where the narrative was no longer an instrinsic part of the plot. His airs de cour reflect a shift from the start of the century to Lambert's style. From 1632 onwards he sought to add a French touch to the Italian style, opening up the genre, making declamation more refined and heartfelt. His final polyphonic compositions feature a continuo.
Bouzignac, Guillaume |
French composer (1587-1642) who worked essentially for the church. He produced a large corpus of sacred music and some profane songs, blending the Italian madrigal with the French air de cour. He worked in Angoulême, Grenoble, Clermont-Ferrand, Bourges and Paris.
Cambert, Robert |
French composer and organist (1628-1677), considered one of the founders of French opera along with Pierre Perrin and before Jean-Baptiste Lully. He wrote the first pastorales, and, encouraged by Mazarin, pushed the concept further, producing the first truly French opera Pomone in 1671. He subsequently headed to London to export his 'invention', and died there in 1677.
Campra, André |
French composer (1660-1744). Born to a family of musicians, he was master of music at Notre-Dame de Paris in 1696, then at the Sainte-Chapelle in 1698. He also worked for the Académie Royale de Musique and the Royal Chapel choir. He wrote many religious works, but was also hailed as one of the greatest composers of ballets, opéras-ballets and tragédies lyriques.
Cantata |
A lyrical genre based on a sacred or profane libretto. A cantata is similar to an oratorio (an exclusively liturgical genre), but is often smaller in scale.
Cantor |
A professional solo or choral singer of religious music.
Cardinal Richelieu |
French statesman and clergyman (1585-1642), chief minister of Louis XIII from 1624 until his death. His main role was to strengthen the power of the monarch. He has been seen as a founder of the modern state. He was a proponent of absolutism which reached its height under Louis XIV.
Castrato |
Soprano or alto eunuch singers brought from Italy to France by Mazarin in 1644 and 1660, who met a somewhat mixed reception.
Cavalli, Francesco |
Italian singer, organist and composer (1602- 1676) who had a long career as church musician. He helped launch opera in Italy, a very popular genre by the end of his life. Out of his 41 operas, 27 have survived. L'Egisto, Xerse and Ercole amante were performed in Paris. He was received by Cardinal Mazarin, after whose death he had to return to Venice, targeted by the cabal organised against Italian politicians and artists residing at the French court.
Cello |
A bowed or plucked string instrument in the violin family. It is played seated, with the cello between the legs. It has a wide range and its tone resembles that of the human voice.
Charles IX of France |
Born in 1550, King of France from 1560 to 1574. His reign was marked by the wars of religion and the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre.
Charpentier, Marc-Antoine |
French composer and organist (1643-1704). He was an active supporter of the Jesuit community in Paris and master of music at the Sainte-Chapelle, although he never worked at the court in Versailles. He composed a great deal of sacred music and music for the stage (dramas, tragédies lyriques, pastorales,etc.).
Cherubini, Luigi |
Italian composer, conductor, theoretician and teacher (1760-1842). He was one of the great composers of opera during the Revolution, and directed the Paris conservatoire from 1822 to 1844. He wrote numerous operas which form a bridge between the 18th century style and 19th century grand opera in France.
Clarinet |
The clarinet is a single-reed woodwind instrument with a very broad musical range. It comes in various sizes and offers a wide range of nuances.
Classical music |
In the history of music, the term denotes a particular period and style. The classical movement as represented by Haydn contrasted with the preceeding Baroque movement, flourishing briefly before the advent of Romanticism in the late 18th century.
Colasse, Pascal |
French composer (1649-1709) and main collaborator of Jean-Baptiste Lully. Lully appointed him conductor of the Académie Royale de Musique orchestra. He completed his master's final tragédie lyrique called Achille et Polyxène which was a humiliating flop. He had his revenge in 1689 with Thétis et Pélée which ran for 61 years at the Académie Royale de Musique and featured the first 'musical storm'. That year he married the daughter of designer Jean Bérain. He created the opéra-ballet prototype Le Ballet des Saisons in 1695 with Abbot Jean Pic. He served as master of music for the Musique de la Chambre du Roi and choirmaster for Les Pages in the wake of Michel Lamberl in 1696 and up until his death.
Colin de Blamont, François |
French composer (1690-1760) who presumably learnt music from his father Nicolas Colin who was official royal musician. He became a protégé of Michel Richard Delalande and worked as court musician, playing at the Duchess du Maine's Grandes Nuits de Sceaux in 1714-1715. Two of his cantatas, Circé and Didon, forged his reputation. His position as Superintendent and music master of the Musique de la Chambre du Roi led to working with André Cardinal Destouche on Les Concerts de la Reine. His operas were very successful, especially Les Fêtes Grecques et Romaines (1723).
Comédie lyrique |
A comic opera set to music, as distinct from a comédie-ballet which is entirely in song.
Comédie-ballet |
A theatrical combination of music and dance devised by Molière and Lully. A large scale genre with a single plot, more like a tragédie lyrique than the more composite opéra-ballet. Molière and Lully had great success with L'Amour médecin, Georges Dandin, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, etc.
Comédie-Française |
In 1680, Louis XIV ordered the troupes of the Hôtel de Bourgogne and Molière's Théâtre Guénégaud to merge and form the Comédie-Française.
Comédie-Italienne (or Théâtre Italien) |
An Italian theatre company established in Paris from 1716 in the Hôtel de Bourgogne, also known as the Théâtre Italien. The troupe merged with the Opéra-Comique in 1762.
Concert Spirituel |
A society of Parisian public concerts founded by Anne Danican Philidor in 1725.
Concerto |
A purely instrumental musical genre invented in Italy in the 17th century featuring one or several soloists and an orchestra.
Concerts de la Reine |
Concerts organised by queen Marie Leszczynska (the wife of Louis XV), following a carefully planned protocol, performed either indoors or outdoors, in Versailles or Fontainebleau. The concerts featured sonatas, operas, cantatas or ballets.
Conservatoire |
A musical institution founded in 1795 after the French Revolution. It followed the tradition of schola and choir schools which were independent from the church.
Consort |
A small Renaissance ensemble comprising instruments from the same family. A full consort of violas would include a treble viol, a viola da gamba, a tenor viol, a bass viol and a violone (double bass viol).
Continuo |
A system of accompaniment used from the 15th till the early 19th century. Several melodic instruments (cello, double bass, bassoon, cromorne, etc.) and several harmonic instruments (organ, harpsichord, theorbo, lute, etc.) produce the bass line, adding harmony with improvised chords.
Continuo |
Corneille, Pierre |
French playwright and poet (1606-1684), author of the scandalously novel Le Cid. His play L'illusion comique is typical of the Baroque style.
Cornett (barroco) |
A wind instrument made of wood or ivory. It is very similar to the recorder but has a mouthpiece.
Counterpoint |
A musical technique involving the simultaneous superimposition of melodic lines.
Couperin, François |
French composer, harpsichordist and organist (1668-1733). He was the organist at Saint-Gervais de Paris all his life but also worked at the court in Versailles. He was appointed King's organist and wrote numerous instrumental works, mainly for organ and harpsichord, as well as sacred music including motets and his splendid Leçons de Ténèbres.
Court |
The residence of a king or soverign prince; its royal retinue and body of courtiers. The main royal residence housed the government (in Paris and later Versailles), although for part of the year the court was itinerant. From Henri IV until the death of Anne of Austria in 1666, the court was in the Tuileries or Louvre palace in Paris, then in Saint-Germain-en-Laye until it moved to Versailles in May 1682. In the latter part of Louis XIV's reign it was customary to spend periods in other royal residences (in Compiègne, Fontainebleau, Saint-Hubert or Saint-Léger during the hunting season, and Marly, Choisy and La Muette), or to lodge in 'petites maisons de plaisance', i.e. the homes of royal favorites, family members or Ministers.
Cromorne |
A large, very low-pitched bass oboe.
D'Anglebert, Jean-Henry |
French composer, harpsichordist and organist (1629-1691). He worked at the court in Versailles and wrote several instrumental pieces, mainly for harpsichord as court entertainment.
D'Orneval, Jacques-Philippe |
French playwright (?-1766), author of over 80 works for the Paris Théâtres de la Foire. No details of his life exist.
Dauvergne, Antoine |
French composer and violinist (1713-1797) and pupil of Rameau. He served as violinist with the Musique de la Chambre du Roi and occupied a senior post at the Opéra and at the Concert Spirituel. He wrote many works for the stage (ballets, tragédies lyriques, ballets-héroïques, etc.) as dwell as instrumental pieces, a several motets.
Debussy, Achille-Claude |
French composer and pianist (1862-1918), a key figure in the world of impressionist musicians. Touching on almost all the musical genres, he ran counter to the musical establishment and paved the way to modernity for his contemporaries.
Desmarest, Henry |
French composer (1661-1741) who started his career at the court at Versailles. He spent most of his life in Lorraine, composing many stage works and sacred music.
Dessus |
The high notes in a piece of instrumental or vocal music, and by extension, the highest-pitched notes in any family of instruments.
Destouches, André-Cardinal |
French composer (1672-1749) who served at court in Versailles, first as Superintendent then as master of music for the Musique de la Chambre du Roi. He also worked for the Académie Royale de Musique and initiated the series of Concerts Spirituels in Paris around 1725 and the Queen's concerts in Versailles. Considered during his lifetime a minor composer, he nevertheless left an impressive legacy of ballets, tragédies lyriques, dances, songs, cantatas and motets.
Divertissement |
A 17th century musical term for a pastorale or chamber cantata. From the reign of Louis 14th it mainly referred to an instrumental piece within a larger stage entertainment.
Double bass |
In the violin family, the double bass is the largest and lowest pitched of the string instruments. It is played standing, with a bow or by plucking the strings.
Drum |
Designates any percussion instrument with skin stretched over a frame. It includes the tambourine, tambour de basque, military drum, provencal drum and kettledrum.
Du Mont, Henry |
French organist and composer of Flemish origin (1610-1684) who ran the court's religious music department with Pierre Robert until 1683. They were both promoted to the post of assistant music master at the Royal Chapel. From 1672-1673 Du Mont was the official Royal Chapel composer and was appointed master of the Queen's music. Apart from a few songs and pieces for harpsichord, organ and viola, he essentially wrote church music. He becme an accomplished composer, reflecting Renaissance polyphony and influence from the French air de cour and the Italian style, showing his familiarity with the music across Europe at the time. Although remembered particularly for his Masses, he showed perfect mastery of the art of counterpoint and successfully incorporated French and Italian styles. Du Mont's dialogue motets and grands motets are the summum of his skill.
Duni, Egidio Romualdo |
Italian composer (1708-1775) who specialised in opera. He started off in Rome and Milan then was invited to London, Naples, Florence, etc. He was appointed chapel master in Parma in 1743. He moved to Paris in 1757 and worked as music director for the Comédie-Italienne from 1761 to 1770. He was a moving force in opéra-comique in the late 18th century and imported many Italian elements into the French musical language.
Falsetto |
see Countertenor
Farinelli |
Italian castrato singer of noble family origins (1705-1782) whose real name was Carlo Maria Michele Angelo Broschi. He became one of the 18th century's greatest castrato stars, adulated across Europe, invited to perform in Italy, Germany and England regardless of his exorbitant fees. He was less admired in France, however, where castratos were treated with more reservation.
Faustina, Bordoni |
Wife of the composer Hasse (1697-1781) and a leading singer in the 18th century. She embarked on a career covering Italy, Vienna and London. Her marriage to Hasse propelled her into the limelight in Dresden, although she continued to tour Europe.
Favart, Charles-Simon |
French composer and librettist (1710-1783) who defended Italian opera during the Querelle des Bouffons musical controversy. Favart was one of the fouders of opéra-comique. He produced a considerable output IMPROVE of opéras-comiques which were very popular in Paris during the latter half of the 18th century.
Fife |
A shrill transverse flute corresponding to today's piccolo. It was mainly played in outdoor military bands.
Flûte |
The recorder and horizontal transverse flute were distinctively French instruments. Flute makers were famous throughout Europe.
Formé, Nicolas |
Nicolas Formé (1567-1638) from Paris almost certainly got his initial musical training at a choir school. He went on to become a cantor in the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and then in the Royal Chapel at Versailles. On the death of Du Caurroy in 1609 he took over as assistant Master of Music. He served Henri IV for 18 years and Louis XIII for a further 28 years. The latter was a great lover of music and so Formé's work that he kept them in a special chest to which only he had the key. Formé was a highly sensitive artist but left few traces of his great talent. He is mainly famous for his two choir Mass, followed by his motet to the Virgin Mary, Ecce tu pulchra es. Forgetting about his predecessor Eustache Du Caurroy's work in the same genre, Formé boasted that he was one of the first French composers to import the Italian double choir composition (a small one featuring four soloists and a large choir). The choirs enter a dialogue and unite at the end. Formé innovated by injecting lightness into the Latin motet, his jaunty rhythm fitting naturally into the triumphalist architecture of counter Reformation churches.
Forqueray, Jean-Baptiste |
French composer and violinist (1699-1782) and virtuoso viola da gamba player. He performed in public for the first time in Versailles at the age of five. Despite frequent clashes with his father whom he rivalled, he became an outstanding musician. His compositions were commissioned by important figures of the time and represent the epitome of the French viola da gamba tradition.
Francis I |
King of France from 1515-1547. His reign was a flourishing period in history, with the advent of the Reformation and humanist ideas, which were to spread across Europe.
Francœur, François |
French composer and violinist (1698-1787). From an eminent family of musicians, Francœur started his career as violinist with the Opéra de Paris and then with the Musique de la Chambre du Roi for whom he regularly composed. From 1750 onwards he gradually moved away from instrumental music and in 1753 became director of the Opéra de Paris. He composed many instrumental pieces, tragédies lyriques and ballets-héroïques.
Fronde, the |
A French civil war (1648-1653) in which the nobility rose against the increasing authority of the king and the power of Cardinal Richelieu.
Fuselier, Louis |
French playwright and librettist (1672-1752). Co-director of the Mercure de France gazette. He wrote or co-wrote over 230 plays for the Comédie-Française, the Comédie-Italienne, the Paris Opéra and the Théâtres de la Foire.
Gillier, Jean-Claude |
French composer and double bass player (1667-1737). He worked with the Comédie-Française for most of his life and wrote numerous airs and pieces for court entertainment.
Gluck, Christoph Willibald |
Bohemian, Austrian & Italian composer (1714-1787) and major pre-classical musician. He helped reform opera. He first worked for the Vienna princes, then was hired by the Milan orchestra and by Haymarket theatre in London. He embarked on an international career as opera composer (he wrote over 40) and enjoyed a string of successes. He toured Europe in triumph and to great acclaim on the Paris stage.
Gossec, François-Joseph |
French composer, violinist, opera director and music teacher (1734-1829). From 1762 he worked for the Princes of Condé and Conti. In 1769 he founded the Concert des Amateurs which he ran until 1773, then directed the Concert Spirituel. In 1780 he was appointed Assistant Director of the Paris Opéra. He left it in 1784 to direct the recently established École Royale de Chant, to become the French national conservatoire in 1795. Gossec rose to fame, his corpus including opera, chamber music, symphonies and religious music. He gave France a fresh, independent vision of the orchestra, paving the way to Romanticism.
Grand Siècle |
Refers to the 17th century, a period when France was the leading power in Europe.
Gregorian chant |
See Plainchant
Grétry, André |
French composer of operas and opéras-comiques (1741-1813). He was popular during the French Revolution and Empire, but gradually fell out of favour with the Conservatoire. His large output includes chamber music, operas, symphonies and romances as well as revolutionary songs and hymns.
Guédron, Pierre |
Pierre Guédron (1575-c.1620), singer and composer, was a celebrated artisan of accompanied monody in France. In 1583 he became one of the five cantors at the chapel of Louis II de Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine. He possibly joined the Musique du Roi singers on the Cardinal's death in 1588. He was official composer for the Musique de la Chambre du Roi by March 1601, replacing Claude Le Jeune. He rose to the position of Superintendent during the reign of Louis XII, became music tutor to the queen mother Marie de Médicis and passed on the job of children's music tutor to his son-in-law Antoine Boësset. He made his name by establishing the air de cour, a popular secular genre, and becoming its undisputed master. Guédron also provided the music, airs and recitatives for ballets performed at the French court between 1598 and 1620. His legacy includes 185 ballet and court airs (in 4 / 5 parts, or for voice and lute).
Haendel, George Frederic |
Anglo-German composer, violinist and organist (1685-1749). Born in Germany, he started his musical career as a violinist and composer in Hamburg. He journeyed across Europe discovering the prevailing musical styles. He moved to England in 1712 where he spent most of his career. He wrote in all musical genres (with around 600 works to his name), and most successfully opera. He invented the English oratorio, notably composing his celebrated masterpiece the Messiah.
Harmony |
A combination of notes or chords forming a cohesive sound.
Harpsichord |
A keyboard instrument with plucked strings. Although emblematic of the baroque era and the nobility, it dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was known as a clavicymbalum or clavicytherium.
Hasse, Johann Adolf |
German composer and singer (1699-1783). He started out as an opera singer in Hamburg but rapidly turned to composing opera. He left Germany in 1722 for Italy and worked in both Naples and Venice. In 1731, he moved to Dresden, where he served as chapel master until 1763 while continuing to work abroad. He wrote numerous operatic works and helped introduce the Italian style to Germany.
Haute-contre |
The highest vocal or instrumental range. Hautes-contres singers are countertenors capable of singing extremely high notes using their chest voice (only in France).
Hauts instruments |
A category of very loud instruments that can be played outdoors. It includes all instruments with mouthpieces and many double-reed instruments.
Haydn, Joseph |
Classical composer (1732-1809) who resided at the court of the Esterházys. He wrote numerous operas, symphonies, trios, quartets, etc. He was considered the creator of the classical symphony and taught many musicians, including Beethoven.
Henry III of France |
King of France (1551-1589), last of the Valois dynasty. In 1574 he inherited a kingdom torn by the wars of religion. He died assassinated by the opposition.
Henry IV of France |
King of France (1589-1610), first of the Bourbon dynasty. He inherited a divided kingdom but successfully ended the wars of religion by signing the Edict of Nantes which tolerated Protestantism. He was murdered by a Catholic fanatic.
Homophony |
A type of musical composition in which the voices sing in unison.
Horn |
A brass wind instrument originally used for military signals or hunting. The horn was improved in the late 17th century and rapidly joined the orchestra.
Instrumental music |
Music excluding any form of vocal music (i.e. dance suites, overtures, sonatas, symphonies, etc.).
Interlude |
A short, usually instrumental but sometimes vocal piece played between Acts or during a scene change at the theatre. An interlude may be totally unrelated to the plot.
Italian style |
An Italian musical form which favoured simple harmony and counterpoint, creating brilliant virtuosity and stunning ornamentation. The epitome of this style is the aria da capo.
Kettledrums |
Large tunable drums with a copper or brass barrel, often played in different sized pairs.
Lalande, Michel-Richard de |
French composer and organist (1657-1726). He started his career in Paris parishes (Saint-Germain, Saint-Gervais, etc) and entered the service of the king as assistant master at Versailles chapel in 1683. He was appointed Superintendent of the Musique de la Chambre du Roi in 1689. He produced a large legacy of motets and several instrumental pieces.
Lambert, Michel |
French composer, theorboist and singer (1610-1696) who served at the court of Louis XIV from 1650. He became music master for the Musique de la Chambre du Roi in 1661. He composed a large number of airs and leçons de ténèbres and did much to promote French vocality.
Le Camus, Sébastien |
French composer and instrumentalist (1610-1677) who served at the court of Louis XIII from 1640. He held the post of Superintendent of music under Louis XIV. He composed many airs which were played up until the early 18th century.
Leclair, Jean-Marie |
Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764) represented the French violin school in the 18th century. Born in Lyon, he became an opera dancer but his background in violin attracted him to performance and composition. His first sonatas appeared in 1721. He spent some time in Paris then went to Turin and was taught by the famed violinist Giovanni Somis. His career only really took off in 1728 when he returned to Paris to play at the Concert Spirituel. He polished his skills abroad, but gained stability when Louis XV appointed him official court musician in 1733. His violin compositions became increasingly accomplished and his fame grew. He went later to the Netherlands at the request of the Princesse of Orange and often appeared at court there. He returned to Paris and in 1748 entered the service of his pupil the Duc de Gramont who was patron of a well-known orchestra. It was there that Leclair staged most of his operas. Apart from sonatas, trios and concertos, he wrote a magnificent tragédie lyrique called Scylla et Glaucus in 1746 which was performed at the Académie Royale de Musique to well-deserved acclaim.
Lemoyne, Jean-Baptiste |
French composer (1751-1796). After studying at the Périgueux cathedral choir school he travelled through France and Europe. He completed his training in Prussia and obtained a post at the court in Warsaw where his first opera Le bouquet de Colette was performed in 1775. He returned to Paris where he composed several operas, initially inspired by Gluck then Piccini and served at the court of Louis XVI. He became a favourite with the public thanks mainly to his operas Phèdre and Nephté, but also towards the end of his career because of his revolutionary songs.
Lesage, Alain-René |
French novelist and playwright (1668-1747). Although he had formal musical training, his work with the Foire Saint-Germain theatres contributed much to the emergence of opéra-comique and vaudeville.
Librettist |
The author of an opera libretto.
Libretto |
The printed text of an opera.
Louis XIII |
Louis XIII (1601-1643) became King of France in 1610 on the death of his father Henry IV. His mother Marie de Medicis acted as Regent and he only took control in 1617. He was an avid supporter of the Arts and took a personal interest in court music and dancing, thus promoted royal authority and image. His love of the Arts emerged when he was very young - he was a good dancer, played the lute and practiced basse-taille singing. In his spare time he also composed music: he set the Ballet de la Merlaison to music in 1635, paraphrased psalms by Antoine Godeau and wrote airs de cour, including his famous Tu crois ô beau Soleil (mentioned by Marin Mersenne in his Harmonie universelle in 1636). He also helped reorganise court consorts. By the time he died the Musique de la Chapelle, de la Chambre du Roi and l’Écurie ensembles were formed, to be rendered glorious by his son Louis XIV.
Louis XIV |
Born in 1643 and King of France from 1654 to 1715, he represented the glorious heyday of the French monarchy. Using a system of centralised power, Louis XIV was patron of the Arts in the grandest scale, for the purpose of forging a cultural identity for his kingdom. The palace and court at Versailles represented the culmination of his ambitions.
Louis XV |
Born in 1710 and King of France from 1715 to 1774, he was known as Louis le Bien-Aimé (the Beloved). He helped expand the Kingdom of France. Towards the end of his reign the popularity of the monarchy sharply declined and the State verged on bankruptcy.
Louis XVI |
Born in 1754 and King of France from 1775 to 1792, Louis XVI inherited a kingdom deep in debt and marked by popular uprisings. Despite attempts to set the country to rights, his reign ended in a revolution and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. He died at the guillotine in 1793, following the fall of the monarchy in 1792.
Lully, Jean-Baptiste |
French composer and violinist of Italian descent (1632-1687), hailed as the inventor of French opera and representative of French music at the court of Louis XIV. He arrived in France in 1646 and entered the service of Mademoiselle de Montpensier as her Italian tutor. He could dance, play the guitar and violin and was proficient at composition and keyboard instruments. He became a friend of Michel Lambert and Lazzarini, composer of instrumental music, whose post he took over in 1653. He thus began to provide music for the ballets performed at court. In 1661 he was appointed Superintendent of music and official composer for the Musique de la Chambre, sharing the post with Jean-Baptiste Boësset. The following year he obtained the role of master of music for the royal family. His collaboration with Molière led to Le Bourgeois gentilhomme. In 1672, he bought the rights to the Académie Royale de Musique, giving him control over all opera productions in France. Lully composed a lot of music for ballet and stage, and this new institution gave him the chance to create a theatrical genre, the tragédie-lyrique. 1673 saw the advent of Cadmus et Hermione followed by Alceste, with another opera each year until 1686 (except for 1681). His most famous works are his comédies-ballets (e.g. Le Bourgeois gentilhomme and Les Amants magnifiques), his tragédies lyriques (e.g. Atys, Persée and Armide) and grands motets such as his Miserere, Te Deum and De Profundis.
Lute |
A distant relative of the guitar, it has several courses. These are double strings tuned the same. Lutes come in various sizes and can be used to play polyphony or melody.
Madame de Pompadour |
Favourite of Louis XV (1721-1764), a commoner who rose to the title of Marchioness and contributed to the cultural life at Versailles. She helped organise court entertainments.
Madrigal |
A polyphonic song from the 16th and 17th centuries, very popular in Italy and England. It reached its heyday in the 1600's with the music of Monteverdi, Gesualdo, etc.
Maîtrise |
A choir school, often linked to a religious institution. It trained singers and musicians from the baroque era up until the French Revolution, when it was partly replaced by Conservatoires.
Mannheim school |
A musical circle formed in about 1750 by Johann Stamitz and members of the Hofkapelle of Charles Theodore, Prince-Elector of Palatine in Mannheim. The work at the Mannheim School influenced the musical shift from late Baroque to Viennese classical music and then to Romanticism. The Mannheimer Hofkapelle was the most highly reputed orchestra in all Europe until 1778.
Marais, Marin |
French composer and violinist (1656-1728). After studying under the famous Sainte-Colombe, he joined the Opéra de Paris run by Lully around 1675. He joined the Musique de la Chambre ensemble in 1679. He wrote many pieces for the viola da gamba and four tragédies lyriques.
Maria Josepha of Saxony |
Wife of the Dauphin Louis, son of Louis XV.
Marie Leszczynska |
Daughter of the King of Poland, Marie Leszczynska (1703-1768) was the wife of King Louis XV. A lover of the Arts, she had a powerful influence on musical life at court.
Marie-Antoinette |
Imperial princess and Queen of France, Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793) was the wife of Louis XVI. In the footsteps of Marie Leszczynska and Madame de Pompadour, she organised royal entertainments and was a fervent patron of the Arts. Music was played every day in her residence in the Petit Trianon.
Marine trumpet |
A very tall bowed string instrument which can make a trumpet-like sound. The slanted position of the metal bridge buzzes and produces a 'brassy' sound.
Mass |
Liturgy set to music, comprising a Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. It forms the Ordinary of Catholic rites, sometimes with additional items called the Proper.
Mazarin, Jules |
French statesman and Cardinal, born in Italy in 1602. He served as chief minister under Louis XIII and Anne of Austria and succeeded Richelieu from 1643 to 1661. His death marked the start of the personal rule of Louis XIV.
Menus-Plaisirs |
The royal Department responsible for the silverware, court entertainment and affairs relating to the King's apartments. It handled the ordinary and extraordinary expenses relating to court festivities and ceremonies.
Merovingians |
The first dynasty of Frankish kings, from Clovis to Childeric III (481-751). It was succeeded by the Carolingians when Pepin the Short came to the throne in 754.
Meyerbeer, Giacomo |
German composer and pianist (1791-1864). After brilliant studies he travelled to Italy, drawing on the musical practices there to develop his own style. He met with critical acclaim throughout Europe, was a noted composer of opera and one of the most frequently performed composers in the 19th century. He was a pioneer of orchestral treatment, a master of grand opera and precursor of Wagnerism.
Middle Ages |
In musical terms, the period stretching from the 8th century until the end of the ars subtilior (1420), with the advent of polyphonic music, counterpoint and musique mesurée.
Miserere |
Psalm 50-51 - "Have mercy on me, O God", frequently set to music.
Molière, Jean-Baptiste |
French actor and playwright (1622-1673), author of around thirty comedies in prose or verse. His collaboration with Jean-Baptiste Lully gave rise to the comédie-ballet.
Mondoville, Cassanéa de, Jean-Joseph |
Virtuoso French musician (1711-1772) on a par with Leclair and Guignon, and composer of grands motets. After publishing two collections of instrumental music he left his province to join the Concert Spirituel in 1739, and also become official violinist with the Musique de la Chambre et de la Chapelle. In 1744, he was appointed assistant master of music for the royal chapel. He later served as director and conductor with the Concert Spirituel, while continuing to compose highly inventive secular music. He turned to writing operas, notably Titon et l’Aurore (1753) which stood up to La Serva padrona and Le Devin du Village during the Querelle des Bouffons controversy. In 1758 his Israélites à la Montagne d’Oreb heralded the French oratorio genre which was to become a huge money-maker. Mondonville's style reflects Italian, French and Germanic influence, particularly in his religious works. As such, he is more European than Rameau, the iconic 18th century icon, and a precursor of classical music.
Monody |
A musical phrase characterised by the absence of accompanying harmony or counterpoint.
Monsigny, Pierre-Alexandre |
French composer (1729-1817) born into the gentry and educated in Saint Omer. He moved to Paris in 1749 to work in finance but soon turned to music, composing his first comic operas in 1759 for the Foire Saint-Germain theatre. From then on he regularly composed for various Paris establishments and became a well-known name. However, the 1789 Revolution obliterated him from the world of music. He was only reinstated in 1800 on becoming Inspector at the Paris Conservatoire and later member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in the wake of Grétry in 1813.
Monteverdi, Claudio |
Italian composer and organist (1567-1643), seen by many as the inventor of opera after L'Orfeo in 1607. Originally from Cremona, he first entered the service of the Duke of Mantua, for whom he composed books of madrigals and his Vespres à la Vierge. In 1613 he was appointed chapel master at Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice where he composed sacred music.
Morin, Jean-Baptiste |
Born in Orleans (1677-1754), Morin acquired his musical training at Saint Aignan cathedral music school. He moved to Paris and worked for the future Regent the Duke of Orleans, serving as official royal musician and music tutor to his daughter the Abbess of Chelles. His output mainly consists of petits motets and French cantata published between 1703 and 1712 (two books of motets and three of cantata). His piece La Chasse du Cerf (1709) was popular at court and at the Concert Spirituel until the early 1730's. Alongside Bernier and Clérambault, Morin is a major representative of 'goûts réunis' (fusion of styles). His Italianate cantata are among the best in the genre, earning him a degree of fame in the early 18th century.
Motet |
Sacred vocal music featuring soloists and/or a choir and sometimes instruments, based not on a Mass, oratorio or cantata, but on a Roman Gradual text (e.g. an antiphon or Te Deum). The grand motet was a French invention served up on grand occasions, featuring a large number of musicians, a large and a small choir, and a full orchestra. The petit motet is limited to a handful of singers, a continuo and occasionally a few instruments.
Moulinié, Étienne |
A singer and composer (1599-1676) who acquired his musical training at Saint Juste cathedral music school in Narbonne. He joined his elder brother in Paris who was an official royal cantor with the Musique de la Chambre. Moulinié first trained in religious music but turned to composing airs de cour, a popular secular genre at the time. In 1624 Pierre Ballard published the first book of airs for lute tablature followed by airs for solo voice accompanied by lute or guitar. In 1627 Moulinié entered the service of the King's brother Gaston d’Orléans and directed his music until the death of the Prince in 1660. From 1634 he also served Anne Marie-Louise d’Orléans-Montpensier, Gaston d'Orléans' daughter. He worked on several court ballets such as the Ballet du Monde Renversé (1624) and the Ballet des Quatre Monarchies Chrétiennes (1635). He also wrote a 5 Part Mass, Missa pro defunctis à 5 voix in 1636 and a publication intitled Meslanges de sujets chrestiens (1658). Moulinié returned to the land of his birth around 1663, becoming Superintendent of music with life tenure in Languedoc in 1667. He published his final collection of polyphonic airs in 1668.
Mouret, Jean-Joseph |
French musician and composer (1682-1738) known as the 'musicien des grâces'. He moved to Paris in 1707 where the Duke of Maine appointed him superintendent of the music at Sceaux. In 1714 his first opera Les fêtes ou le triomphe de Thalie was performed at the Opéra de Paris to great acclaim. From then he held the post of director of the opera orchestra until 1718. He composed many pieces for the stage, both divertimenti and sacred and secular cantata. However, his fame and popularity waned after 1736 and he died in poverty.
Mouvement |
Part of a large instrumental work, initially self-contained.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus |
Austrian classical composer and child prodigy (1756-1791). Although mainly based in Salzburg and Vienna, he became famous throughout Europe as a musical genius, a consummate musician and composer.
Musette |
A cousin of the bagpipes, played not by blowing air through pipes but by compressing wind bags under the player's arm.
Musique de l'Écurie du Roi |
A musical ensemble for outdoor events (parades, hunting, fireworks, etc.), mainly composed of loud instruments (trumpets, trombones, oboes, bombardes, etc.).
Musique de la Chambre du Roi |
A musical ensemble comprising soft-sounding instruments (violas, violins, flutes, etc.) played for court entertainment (operas, ballets, sonatas, etc.). It was also known as the Grande Bande or Les Vingt-Quatre Violons du Roi.
Musique de la Chapelle du Roi |
An institution housing the repertoire of the court's sacred music. It included Masses, motets, cantatas and oratorios.
Noverre, Jean-Georges |
French choreographer (1727-1810) who started out as a dancer at the Saint-Laurent fair in Paris, performing in the first opéras-comiques around 1743. He worked with Gluck on Alceste and Iphigénie en Aulide and left numerous essays on dance to posterity.
Oboe |
A double-reed wind instrument. The oboe is descended from the bombarde and shawm and can be played both indoors and outdoors.
Opera |
A large musical work consisting of the entire setting to music of a written drama (adapted for the purpose), featuring soloists, choirs and orchestra, and staged in a dedicated venue.
Opera buffa |
A lighthearted genre of Italian opera, set to song throughout unlike an opéra-comique. It features recitatives and a series of aria da capo, duos and trios, etc.
Opéra de Paris |
see Académie Royale de Musique
Opera seria |
A serious genre of Italian opera with a historical or mythological theme, contrasting with opera buffa. Often forumulaic and consisting of a series of aria da capo interpsersed with recitatives.
Opéra-ballet |
Derived from the tragédie lyrique, but where dance is as important as the singing. An opéra-ballet is presented in three Acts (or entrées) and has a straightforward and somewhat light-hearted plot.
Opéra-comique |
A form of opera with spoken dialogue. It first made its appearance around 1715 at the Saint-Germain fair in Paris. Its theme is not necessarily comic.
Oratorio |
A large-scale work resembling an opera but with a religious theme. There is no stage setting and it is performed in a dedicated venue.
Orfeo |
One of the first attested 'grand operas' (1607) composed by Claudio Monteverdi for the court of Vincenzo I, Duke of Mantua.
Organ |
A keyboard instrument equipped with bellows to convey air to a set of pipes. The length of the pipes defines the pitch and timbre of the note.
Ornamentation |
A way of decorating a note or melodic line by adding flourishes (tremolos, mordents, trills, etc.), determined by a player's skill and flair.
Overture |
A purely instrumental piece introducing a large musical work such as an opera, ballet or suite.
Pages |
Young apprentice cantors (chantres) whose voices have not yet broken. They sing the soprano (dessus) and mezzo (2nd soprano) parts of the score.
Parody music |
A compositional technique whereby an existing musical element is used as the basis for a new composition.
Pastorale |
A play or verse drama featuring nymphs or shepherdesses and recounting a romance set in woods or the countryside. Before the advent of opera, this bucolic setting seemed to be the only stage for tales of romantic love!
Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista |
Pergolesi (1710-1736) studied singing, violin and composition at the Poveri di Gesu Cristo conservatoire in Naples. In 1732 he became chapel master to Prince Ferdinando Dolonna Stigliano, squire to the Viceroy of Naples. He wrote operas, opera buffa and Masses. His fame spread worldwide after his death. La Serva Padrona was performed across Europe, making history when it was staged in Paris on 1st August 1752. It triggered the Querelle des Bouffons pamphlet war between defenders of the French tradition and proponents of Italian opera buffa. Pergolesi was revered by the latter for his operas and sacred music, which, along with his other works such as Salve Regina in C minor and his Stabat Mater, sealed his immortality.
Perrin, Pierre |
French poet and librettist (1620-1675) considered one of the founders of French opera. His best known libretto is Pomone which was set to music by Robert Cambert.
Petit Trianon |
The Petit Trianon is a small palace built by Louis XV, which became a venue for the divertissements organised by Marie-Antoinette. It lies in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, on the site of an old hamlet.
Petits Violons du Roi (Petite Bande) |
An orchestra at the French royal court under Louis XIV, and part of the Musique de la Chambre du Roi. It was created in about 1648 as the King's personal ensemble when he was aged around 10, to accompany luncheons and dances at the Palais Royal. Originally totalling 10 or so violins, it rose to 21 by 1665. Lully, who was critical of the traditional style of the Vingt-Quatre Violons du Roi, favoured Les Petits Violons, which suited his Italian taste in music. Les Petits Violons was disbanded after the reign of Louis XIV.
Philidor, Anne Danican |
Composer born in Paris (1681-1728) and godson of Duke Anne de Noailles, son of André Danican Philidor and half-brother of François Philidor. At the age of 16 he composed a pastorale called L'Amour vainqueur, then followed his masterpiece Diane et Endymion and the opera Danaé. In 1698 he was oboist with the Grande Écurie du Roi at the Royal Chapel. In 1725 he and Michel Delannoy founded the Concert Spirituel, a series of 24 yearly public concerts of mainly sacred music, until 1790. In 1727 he founded the Concert Français, a kind of secular equivalent of the Concert Spirituel.
Philidor, François-André Danican |
Dubbed 'Philidor le Grand' (1726-1795), he was born in Dreux and grew up amongst the choir students at Versailles. He acquired the rudiments of music under Campra and when still young compsed motets for the Royal Chapel at Versailles and the Concert Spirituel. In 1740, he worked in Paris as copyist, musician and teacher. He left in 1745 to travel around Europe making a living as a professional chess player. On his return to Paris in 1754 he embarked on a career as a composer of opéra-comique with great success, incorporating Italian elements. He died in London, where his work was popular and which he often visited.
Philippe II, duke of Orleans |
Grandson of Louis XIII, Philippe (1674-1723) served as Regent from 1715 to 1723, until Louis XV came of age.
Piccinni, Niccolò |
Italian composer (1728-1800). He studied under Leonardo Leo and Francesco Durante in Naples, Most of his career was spent in Italy, as a composer for opera houses. He was invited to Paris in 1776 and served as director of the Italian troupe from 1778. He imported the Italian genre to France, fueling the battle with Gluck's supporters. He was one of the most prolific composers of opera in the 18th century, with almost 130 works to his name.
Plainsong |
Unaccompanied vocal music used in the Christian church.
Pléiade |
A group of 16th century French poets devoted to developing the French language. It included Ronsard, du Bellay and Baïf.
Polyphonic song |
Song characterised by several simultaneous voices. The 16th century was the golden age of polyphonic song, which may be homophonic (everyone singing at the same time with the same rhythm) or counterpointic (voices singing independently).
Polyphony |
A compositional technique involving several simultaneously superimposed melodic lines.
Purcell, Henry |
A major English composer born in London (1659-1695). After the initial failure of English and French opera in Britain, he was first to produce very popular music for the stage. At the very end of his career he composed a handful of hugely successful works which have been performed outside England every since. His corpus of 630 works includes 4 semi-operas and a tragédie lyrique.
Querelle des Bouffons controversy |
A major pamphlet war between supporters of Rameau and supporters of Rousseau (1752-1754). The controversy centred on the issue of the Italianisation of French opera, of which Rousseau was in favour.
Quinault, Philippe |
French playwright and librettist (1635-1688), considered one of the founders of French opera. His output included 17 tragedies, comedies, poems and epigrams. In 1668, he was appointed by the court at Versailles to produce textsfor court divertissements. From 1671 onwards he worked with Molière and Corneille and was regularly invited to write libretti set to music by Lully.
Quinte |
The quinte is situated between the viola and cello in the violin family. It is designed for the third viola parts. It is a French term, although such instruments may also have existed in 17th century Germany where violas could have up to up to four parts.
Racine, Jean |
French playwright and poet, considered one of France's greatest tragedians. Born in La Ferté-Milon in 1639, he died in Paris in 1639.
Rameau, Jean-Philippe |
Rameau (1683-1764) was born in Dijon and died in Paris. He had an astonishing career which started in the French provinces - in Avignon, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon and Lyon. He settled in Paris in 1723, the year Louis XV came of age. During his early career he composed motets, cantatas and most of his harpsichord pieces, and wrote his famous Traité de l’Harmonie. In the early 1730's Rameau was introduced to the wealthy fermier général La Poupelinière, who was to be his mentor for many years. The Académie Royale de Musique soon opened its doors to him. Hippolyte & Aricie in 1733 was a landmark in the history of French opera. Rameau's genius rapidly brought him fame and before 1764 he had produced a string of operas which encompassed tragédies lyriques (Castor & Pollux, Dardanus, Zoroastre and Les Boréades), opéras-ballets (Les Indes galantes and Les Fêtes d’Hébé) as well as the comédie-ballet Platée in 1745. Appointed court composer at Versailles in 1745, Rameau wrote occasional pieces such as Le Temple de la Gloire and Les Fêtes de l’Hymen & de l’Amour. His operas were still performed until the early 1780's, his talent honoured by the French as on a par with Lully.
Range |
The range of notes emitted by a voice or instrument.
Ravel, Maurice |
French composer (1875-1937) and key figure of French musical impressionism. He wrote in widely diverse genres, incorporating elements of French music from Couperin and Rameau.
Rebel, François |
Composer, violinist, theorboist and conductor (1701-1775). From a family of musicians, he joined the orchestra of the Académie Royale de Musique at the age of 13, and then the Vingt-Quatre Violons du Roi in 1717. He wrote his first tragedy in 1726 and became director of the Concert Spirituel in 1734, and of the opera in 1757. He worked closely with François Francœur, and together they produced many theatrical works. He also wrote several sacred and instrumental pieces.
Recitative |
Musical declamation which imitates the rhythm of speech, developed and popularised by Jean-Baptiste Lully around 1670.
Renaissance |
In musical terms, the era from the end of the ars subtilior (1420) to the advent of the continuo (1600).
Restoration |
The restoration of the French monarchy with the fall of the Empire (1814-1830). During this time a constitutional monarchy was established.
Robert, Pierre |
French composer Pierre Robert (c.1620-1699) became director of Senlis cathedral choir school in 1643. He studied music at Notre-Dame de Paris and was master of music there from 1653 to 1662. In 1663, Louis XIV selected him as assistant master of the Royal Chapel, alongside Thomas Gobert, Gabriel Expilly and Henry du Mont. Robert and Du Mont then served at the Royal Chapel, working to develop the grand motet, the emblematic religious genre during the Grand Siècle. The court moved to Versailles in 1682 and Louis XIV was keen to encourage a new majestic French style of music. Both assistant masters left their post, the king showing his gratitude generously, and ordered many of their grands motets to be published.
Romanticism |
In musical terms, the era stretches from the arrival of Beethoven around 1800 until the advent of atonal music around 1900.
Rossini, Gioacchino |
Italian composer (1792-1868) and a youthful precursor of opera. He was hugely popular in Italy with his opera buffa and opera seria. He moved to Paris in 1825 and laid the foundations of French grand opera. He stopped composing in 1830, living off the proceeds of his success. He continued, however, to write occasional pieces and divertissements.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques |
French writer, philosopher and musician (1712-1778). He became a literary success in the 1750's and remained popular till his death. As a composer he was as a fervent proponent of the Italian style and criticized Rameau's theories during the Querelle des Bouffons controversy.
Royal court music |
Royer, Joseph-Nicolas Pancrace |
French musician, composer and harpsichordist (1705-1755), born in Turin and died in Paris. He moved to Paris 1725 where he made a name for hmself as harpsichordist and composer of operas and opéras bouffes. He was conductor at the Opéra de Paris from 1730 to 1734 as well as royal musician. In 1746 he was made Master of Music with the Enfants de France. Later he became director of the Concert Spirituel where he expanded its musical programme. He had an organ built in the concert hall and invited virtuoso players from abroad. He enlivened its repertoire with works like Jean-Jacques Rousseau's symphonie avec cors de chasse and the French premiere of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. Rising to the post of Inspector of the Opera in 1753, he took the role of Master of Music with the Musique de la Chambre du Roi. He ensured that private concerts performed at the home of patron of the arts La Poupelinière were performed on stage at the Concert Spirituel. His compostions went down well with the public. His opera Zaïd ran for 30 years at the Opéra de Paris.
Sacchini, Antonio |
Italian composer (1730-1786) from Florence, who studied composition at Naples with the famous composer Durante, showing great promise. He spending most of his life doing commissions, moving from town to town, mainly in Italy. He specialised in opera and appeared in Padua and Venice and to great acclaim in Rome, Naples and Florence, etc. After a string of successes in Munich, Stuttgart and London he went to Paris in 1781, although his works had been performed there from 1775. Encouraged by supporters of Piccini, he eventually became more popular than the composer as representative of the Italian style. He wrote many operas which became a staple at the Opéra de Paris until 1830, i.e. 34 years after his death.
Sackbut |
Ancestor of the trombone, rarely used in France during the Baroque era and mainly used to back vocals.
Salieri, Antonio |
Italian composer (1750-1825) who at age 24 was appointed to Joseph II's imperial court in Vienna, for whom he wrote many operas. In 1782, the Opéra de Paris requested his services to replace an ailing Gluck. Whilst pursuing his career in Vienna he travelled regularly to Paris where his bespoke operas were greatly appreciated. Around 1800, after meeting Mozart he vitrtually stopped writing operas. His output over 30 years included a wide variety of operas, some for radically different venues. He was an outstanding teacher and trained many famous musicians including Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt.
Salon de Mars |
A hall in the royal apartments at the palace of Versailles. The room was decorated with the theme of the God of War and served as a guard post during the reign of Louis XIV, then a games room and later a venue for music and dancing.
Section |
A group of orchestra musicians playing the same type of instrument. Thus, the oboe section includes the oboe, the alto oboe, the oboe d'amore and the oboe da caccia. It is similar to the notion of the Renaissance consort.
Serpent |
A wind instument with a mouthpiece and side holes, its long cone curved to facilitate grip. It corresponds roughly to the bass cornett and was mainly used to accompany Gregorian chants.
Sonata |
The term describes music for a chamber ensemble which comprises several movements. It often features a continuo and three instruments.
Soprano |
A high vocal or instrumental tessitura (called dessus in French baroque music).
Spinet |
see Harpsichord
Stamitz, Johann |
Bohemian violinist and composer (1717-1757) who expanded the famous Mannheim school. He taught the violin to leading musicians such as Christian Cannabich, the Toeschi brothers, Ignaz Fränzl and Wilhelm Cramer. He joined the Mannheim court chapel in 1741 and was first violin from 1745 to 1746. In 1753 the post of Director of Instrumental Music was apparently created specially for him. One of his symphonies was played at the Concert Spirituel in Paris in 1751 although it is not certain he attended. He often performed there between 1754 and 1755.
Strings |
The family of bowed instruments. It consists of violins (the haute-contre, dessus, quinte, taille, cello & double bass) and violas.
Stuck, Jean-Baptiste |
Jean-Baptiste Stuck, also known as Baptistin (c.1680-1755) was born in Livourne. He travelled through Italy, and moved to Paris around 1700 to enter the service of the future Regent, the Duc d'Orléans, a great enthusiast of Italian composers and the Italian style. Stuck was a virtuoso harpsichordist and accomplished composer. His four collections of French cantatas made his name, as did his Te Deum (now lost) and operas performed at the Académie Royale de Musique (Méléagre et Manto la Fée in 1709 and ten years later Polydore). His works reflect a desire to fuse the French and Italian styles, as advocated at the time by François Couperin ("les goûts réunis").
Symphonie concertante |
A musical genre comprising an orchestra plus one or several soloists. It differs from the concerto in that it follows the form and structure of a symphony.
Symphony |
An orchestral piece, usually in three movements in the baroque era (and four in the classical era). It made its appearance in the mid 18th century and proved a boon to orchestras. The term 'symphony' existed from the early 16th century to designate opera overtures.
Taille |
The vocal or instrumental tessitura corresponding to tenor.
Te Deum |
A religious hymn featured in Ambrosian chants from the 4th century. It was very popular in 17th and 18th century France, played at any festive opportunity.
Telemann, Georg Philipp |
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was a leading German baroque musician. He worked essentially in Hamburg, and became one of the most prolific composers of all time, his corpus totalling nearly 6 000 works. He also helped promote music by founding one of the first music magazines and printing and publishing his own works.
Tenor |
A middle to low vocal or instrumental tessitura or range.
Tessitura |
see Range
The Royal Chapel at Versailles |
There have been 5 successive chapels in various sites within the Palace of Versailles. Today's chapel was built by Jules-Hardouin Mansart and completed by Robert de Cotte in 1710.
Théâtre de la Foire |
Entertainments performed at the Saint-Germain and Saint-Laurent annual Paris fairs. They included vaudeville acts, plays and performances of the first opéras-comiques.
Theorbo |
A type of double-shaft bass lute used from the 16th to the 18th century.
Timbre |
Distinct from vocal or instrumental pitch, the timbre describes the tone or colour of a sound. Its quality can be termed percussive, bright, round, gentle, etc.
Tragédie lyrique |
A major French opera genre of the 17th and 18th centuries (first known as tragédie en musique). First created by Lully and Quinault in 1673 with Cadmus et Hermione. The genre was rivaled by the advent of the opéra-ballet following Campra's L'Europe galante in 1697.
Trombone |
see sackbut
Trumpet |
A brass instrument with a mouthpiece but no valves or holes. It is played solely by varying the pressure of the lips when blowing into the mouthpiece.
Tuning pitch |
By modern international convention, A is given as the reference pitch, called diapason in French. This pitch determines the position of all the other notes of the scale. Between the end of the 17th and 18th centuries, the A reference pitch would have fluctuated over the interval of a major third corresponding to our present G and B, set in relation to A4.
Tutti |
A musical term for a passage in which all the instruments play together, as opposed to those written for a limited number of instruments, soloists or orchestral sections. In concertante music tutti contrasts with the solo passages.
Valois |
The Valois dynasty, a branch of the Capetian dynasty, which ruled the Kingdom of France from 1328 to 1589. They were succeeded by the Bourbons.
Vaudeville |
1. A satirical song in the 17th and 18th centuries. 2. A theatrical genre.
Vigarani, Carlo |
Italian architect, stage designer and decorator (1637-1713). Vigarani had several careers - he worked in Paris, notably with Lully, as director of the opera; in Saint-Germain-en-Laye where he staged major tragédies lyriques; and in Versailles where he helped organise magnificent court festivities. He was appointed King's Engineer in 1662, and supervised court entertainments for Louis XIV until 1690.
Vingt-Quatre Violons du Roi |
Europe's best known virtuoso string ensemble, also known as La Grande Band. It was part of the Musique de la Chambre du Roi and comprised the entire string section, i.e. the dessus (violins), haute-contres, quintes and tailles (violas) as well as the bass section (cellos) and double bass.
Viola da gamba |
A family of bowed string instruments close to the violin family. The viol is placed on or between the legs (gamba). It has 6 strings and comes in several sizes (treble, alto, tenor, bass, double bass, etc.). It is fretted to facilitate the placing of the fingers.
Violone |
A double bass viol, precursor of the double bass.
Vivaldi, Antonio |
Virtuoso violonist and composer, dubbed il Prete Rosso (1678-1741). He was born in Venice and died in Vienna. He left a large corpus of sonatas, concertos, operas and sacred music.
Vogel, Johann Christoph |
German composer (1756-1788) from an eminent family of musicians. He studied music at Nuremberg before moving to Paris in 1776 where he composed a large number of orchestral pieces and oratorios which were performed to great acclaim at the Concert Spirituel. He also wrote two operas which were very popular with admirers of Gluck.
Voltaire, François-Marie |
French writer and philosopher (1694-1778) who embodied the spirit of the French Enlightenment. In his philosphical treatise Le Siècle de Louis XIV, he announced his intention to "depict for posterity not the actions of one man (Louis XIV), but the mind of those living through a historic Age of Enlightenment".
Wind section |
A family of musical instruments where sounds are produced by the vibrations in a column of air. This is achieved by blowing into it (in the case of a flute, trumpet, etc.), by mechanically injecting air into it (in the case of an organ or accordeon), or by compressing a wind bag (in the case of bagpipes, etc.). Many materials can be used to make wind instruments (wood, metal, ivory, bone, etc.).