This week sees the 330th anniversary of the death of naturalised French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). Born Giovanni Battista Lulli to Tuscan parents, Lully moved to Paris in 1646, marking the beginning of a spectacular rise in his career and fortunes. His accession to the office of Surintendant de la Musique de le Chambre du Roi in 1661 heralded twenty-six years of dominance over music-making at Louis XIVâs court, ended only by his death from a famously self-inflicted wound sustained when conducting his own Te Deum.
This anniversary coincides nicely with a recent development in the British Libraryâs own Lully collection, relating to his tragĂ©die (or opera) PersĂ©e. The premiere of this work in 1682 was promptly followed by two corresponding publications of the same year: the first was a particularly imposing score by Christophe Ballard in Paris, sole music printer to Louis XIV; the second was a curious set of string parts for the overture and airs of PersĂ©e, printed by Jean Philip Heus in Amsterdam.
Title-page of Ballardâs score of PersĂ©e (Paris, 1682). British Library Hirsch II.542, folio 1r
As well as holding three copies of Ballardâs score (Music Collections I.302, Hirsch II.542 and R.M.12.a.5), since 1924, the British Library has been in possession of an incomplete set of Heusâs string parts (K.7.c.2.). The only known surviving copy of Heusâs edition, this had lacked a Haute-contre de violon part since its acquisition some ninety-three years earlier. Remarkably, however, a copy of the missing part recently came to light and was acquired by the British Library.
Title-page of the newly-acquired Haute-contre part, British Library K.7.c.2.
The engraved frontispiece shows PersĂ©e, armed with the head of MĂšduse, rescuing AndromĂšde from the sea monster (Act IV)
In addition to being satisfying from a bibliographic perspective, the completion of this set facilitates comparison with the Ballard score published the same year. Ballardâs edition is the âauthorisedâ text in both senses: it was produced in cooperation with the composer, who provided an extensive letter of dedication to the King, while the title-page declares that it was printed âAVEC PRIVELEGE DE SA MAJESTIEâ. Heusâs publication, on the other hand, demonstrates a printer freely plundering the tragĂ©die for its instrumental highlights, clearly unperturbed by the âprivilegeâ given to Ballard as the sole printer of Lullyâs works.
The two editions also demonstrate quite different practical and economic approaches to music printing. Ballardâs rather grand and lavish offering is unlikely to have been constructed for performance, and was probably aimed at libraries of wealthy individuals or institutions. By contrast, Heusâs publication is very much a performing edition, possibly aimed at a growing middle-class market. Unlike Ballardâs edition, which was printed with movable type, it was produced using the considerably more fashionable technique of engraving. The result is a more florid and seemingly handwritten style, which would have appealed to this customer base.
Ballardâs large score, printed using movable type (folio 3r) (upper image), and Heusâs smaller engraved edition (folio 2r) (lower image)
Heusâs edition of the overture and airs of PersĂ©e constitutes an interesting example of cultural transfer between France and the Netherlands. In this case, highly-formalised music from the heart of the French royal musical establishment has been translated into a more âpopularâ and commercialised form for recreation among the Dutch middle classes. To a degree, these different musical and publishing outlooks might even be said to reflect the greater societal ideals and attitudes of the absolutist French state and the commerce-driven Dutch Republic.
James Ritzema, Collaborative PhD student, Royal Holloway, University of London, and British Library