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Michel-Richard de Lalande

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Michel Richard Delalande (1657 – 18 June 1726) was a prolific French Baroque composer and organist who was one of the most important composers of so-called grand motets, of which he wrote almost 80. He also wrote orchestral suites known as “Simphonies pour les Soupers du Roy”, or in an alternative spelling of the time, simply “Symphonies”. Delalande also composed ballets as well.

Born in Paris, he was a contemporary of Jean-Baptiste Lully and François Couperin. Delalande taught music to the daughters of Louis XIV of France, and was director of the French chapel royal from 1714 until his death at Versailles in 1726.

Delalande was arguably the greatest composer of French grands motets, a type of sacred work that was more pleasing to Louis XIV because of its pomp and grandeur, written for soloists, choir and comparatively large orchestra. According to tradition, Louis XIV organized a contest between composers, giving them the same sacred text and a time to compose the musical setting. He alone was the judge. Delalande was one of four winners assigned to compose sacred music for each quarter of the year (the other composers being Coupillet, Collasse and Minoret). Delalande’s was the most important quarter of the year because of the Christmas holiday. Later he had full responsibility for the church music for the complete year.

Delalande left many versions of his works. His earlier versions show adherence to French Baroque style, but the later revisions incorporate more Italian melismatic lines and greater attention to polyphonic counterpoint.

Also, at least four collections of his works exist, each displaying different looks at composer’s work as viewed by the people who assembled each collection.

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