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 XIVâ€™s 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 Libraryâ€™s own Lully collection, relating to his tragÃ©die (or opera) PersÃ©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 PersÃ©e, printed by Jean Philip Heus in Amsterdam.
As well as holding three copies of Ballardâ€™s 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 Heusâ€™s string parts (K.7.c.2.). The only known surviving copy of Heusâ€™s 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.
The engraved frontispiece shows PersÃ©e, armed with the head of MÃ¨duse, rescuing AndromÃ¨de 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. Ballardâ€™s edition is the â€˜authorisedâ€™ 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 â€˜AVEC PRIVELEGE DE SA MAJESTIEâ€™. Heusâ€™s publication, on the other hand, demonstrates a printer freely plundering the tragÃ©die for its instrumental highlights, clearly unperturbed by the â€˜privilegeâ€™ given to Ballard as the sole printer of Lullyâ€™s works.
The two editions also demonstrate quite different practical and economic approaches to music printing. Ballardâ€™s 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, Heusâ€™s publication is very much a performing edition, possibly aimed at a growing middle-class market. Unlike Ballardâ€™s 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.
Heusâ€™s edition of the overture and airs of PersÃ©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 â€˜popularâ€™ 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