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Jean-Baptiste Lully

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Florence, Italy (November 28, 1632 – March 22, 1687)

Jean-Baptiste Lully, originally Giovanni Battista Lulli (November 28, 1632 – March 22, 1687), was an Italian-born French composer, who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He took French citizenship in 1661.

Born in Florence, Italy, either the son of a miller or, as Lully claimed, a nobleman, Lully had little early education, musical or otherwise but he did have a natural talent to play the guitar and violin and to dance.

In 1646, he was discovered by the Duke of Guise and taken to France by him, where he entered the services of Mademoiselle de Montpensier (la Grande Mademoiselle) as a scullery-boy. With the help of this lady his musical talents were cultivated. He studied the theory of music under Nicolas Métru. A scurrilous poem on his patroness resulted in his dismissal.

He came into Louis XIV’s service in late 1652 or early 1653 as a dancer. Subsequently he composed music for the Ballet de la Nuit, which pleased the King immensely. He was then appointed composer of instrumental music to the King and, in this position, conducted the royal string orchestra of the French court, Les Vingt-quatre Violons du Roi (Twenty-four Violins of the King) and Grande Bande (“large band”). He tired of the lack of discipline of the Grande Bande and, with the King’s permission, formed his own group, Petits Violons.

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