About this Recording
8.554397 - LULLY: Grand Motets, Vol. 1

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)
Grands Motets, Vol. 1

In 1661, Lully became Superintendent of the King's Music and Composer of His Majesty's Chamber. His task was to organize the King's musical diversions, notably the great Court entertainments which culminated in Les Plaisirs de l'Isle enchantée in May 1664. He composed music for ballets (at a rate of over one a year during this period) and began his collaboration with Molière. He received his naturalization papers and married the daughter of Michel Lambert, master of music of the King's Chamber.

What then, during the winter of 1664, inspired this theatrically inclined man of action to write a Miserere for the Chapel Royal, a full motet for soloists, choir and orchestra, when such a task was not part of his duties? The mystery remains unsolved. The work was probably the first example of a style which enjoyed popular esteem until the Revolution. It is as though Lully, versatile creator of so many new musical forms, sought here also to make his mark and point the way towards new architectural possibilities. German cantatas, Italian psalms and English anthems were all inspired by Lully's great design.

The religious context in which Lully wrote this first motet was quite particular. The issue of the "liberties of the Gallican church" (i.e. the place of the spiritual and temporal authorities) was once again prominent in the 1660s. The debate on the question led to a parliamentary declaration in 1663 whose six articles are the precursors of the famous "four articles" of 1682 which marked the French bishops' allegiance to the King. At the same time Louis XIV reorganized his Chapel, appointing two composers, Henry Du Mont and Pierre Robert, in 1663. More than any other work Lully's Miserere, performed before the entire Court, seems to stand as a manifesto for what was expected of a composer at the Chapel Royal: an utterly new form, an innovative design, fit for the King.

The work, whose text is drawn from Psalm 51, one of the penitential psalms, was first performed in late 1664. Mme de Sévigné is known to have wept on hearing it and she was doubtless not alone. Although the motet already shows a clear distinction between airs (called récits), solo ensembles, choruses and symphonies, the Miserere belongs to the first period of full motets (before 1683). Its double chorus effects owe much to the composers of the first half of the seventeenth century: the soloists are part of a "small chorus" which is set against the "full chorus". During choral passages, the soloists systematically double the equivalent voices. Treated this way, the full motet resembles a continuous chorus interspersed with more muted passages, or an organ piece in which subtle stops on the positive provide a contrast with the full organ. Textual expression is given light and shade in a harmonious architectural construct. Listen to Lully's counterpoint, the lines of the strings in the symphony, the low-register thirds. The music sings and the violins, shattering the full harmony on the occasion of a cadence, break into a toccata motif that echoes the composer's Italian past.

Observe Lully's mastery of colour. Listen to how choral and orchestral textures, now in five, now in ten parts, change with the rhythm of the text; note how subtle touches of orchestral colour highlight the meaning of a verb or the sweetness of a modulation. The sublime text of the psalm inspires Lully to paint a whole sweep of emotions, at once melancholy, plaintive, sweet, tragic, suffering, noble and victorious.

Plaude lœtare Gallia, first performed on 7th April, 1668, is on a text by Pierre Perrin, future creator of the Royal Academy of Music, "Councillor of the King's council and introducer of Ambassadors to the late Duke of Orleans". Perrin was the author of several pre-Lully opera libretti such as La pastorale d'Issy, Pomone and La mort d'Adonis set to music by Cambert and J.-B. Boesset. He was also a renowned neo-Latin poet, penning a large number of Gallican para-liturgical texts, well before the hymns of Santeul, Commire, Clairé and Pierre Portes. The full motet Plaude lœtare Gallia is a perfect illustration of the move in France to abandon Roman liturgical practice in both text and music. These full motets, whether psalms or Gallican hymns, were sung at Low Mass in the Chapel Royal. It was the time when there were hopes for uniting the Churches, the period (1666) when Bossuet made contact again with Pasteur Fleury, hoping to "advance as far as possible a reconciliation with the Protestants". In 1670 Pérefixe, the bishop of Paris, having decided to publish a new breviary "ad usum parisiensi", commissioned learned poets to write hymns.

The Te Deum is Lully's best-known sacred work, first performed at Fontainebleau on 9th September, 1677. It was while directing 150 musicians in another performance of the piece on 8th January, 1687 that Lully inflicted on himself the wound which, turning gangrenous, was to prove fatal. The origins of the Te Deum were quite different to those of the other works on this recording. Lully was at the pinnacle of his career, the immensely successful composer of lyric tragedies like Atys and Isis. The Te Deum calls for high pomp and considerable resources. Contemporary reports speak of the large forces (as many as 300 musicians, including chorus, orchestra, trumpets and drums) assembled to perform the work, even at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The success of the Te Deum is almost unique in the history of seventeenth century sacred music.

Translation: Adrian Shaw


Te Deum




Te Deum laudamus

Te Dominum confitemur

Te Æternum Patrem.

Omnis terra veneratur

Tibi omnes angeli,

Tibi cœli et universre potestates

Tibi cherubim et seraphim,

incessabili voce proclamant:

Sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabbaoth.

Pleni sunt cœli et terra

majestatis gloriœ tuœ.

Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,

Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,

Te Martirum candidatus laudat exercitus.

Te per orbem terrarum

Sancta confitetur Ecclesia


We praise thee, O God,

we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.

All the earth doth worship thee,

the Father everlasting.

To thee all Angels cry aloud,

the Heavens, and all the Powers therein­.

To thee Cherubin and Seraphin,

continually do cry,

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;

Heaven and earth are full

of the Majesty of thy Glory.

The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee.

The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee.

The noble army of Martyrs praise thee.

The holy Church throughout all the world

doth acknowledge thee;



Patrem immensœ majestatis

Venerandum tuum verum

et unicum Filium,

Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.

Tu Rex gloriœ.


Tu Patris

sempiternus est filius.

Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem

non horruisti Virginis uterum.

Tu devicto mortis aculeo,

aperuisti credentibus regna cœlorum.


The Father of an infinite Majesty;

Thine honourable, true

and only Son;

Also the Holy Ghost: the Comforter.

Thou art the King of Glory.

O Christ,

Thou art the everlasting Son

of the Father.

When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man,

thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.

When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,

thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.



Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes,

in gloria Patris

Judex crederis

esse venturus.


Te ergo quœ sumus, famulis tuis subveni,

quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.

Æterna fac cum sanctis tuis

In gloria numerari.


Thou sittest at the right hand of God

in the Glory of the Father.

We believe that thou shalt come

to be our Judge.


We therefore pray thee, help thy servants

whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.

Make them to be numbered with thy Saints

in glory everlasting.



Salvum fac populum tuum Domine

et benedic hœreditati tuœ

Et rege eos,

et extolle illos usque in œternum.


Per singulos dies, benedicimus Te,

Et laudamus nomen tuum

in sœculum sœculi.


O Lord, save thy people

and bless thine heritage.

Govern them

and lift them up for ever.


Day by day we magnify thee.

And we worship thy name

ever world without end.



Dignare, Domine, die isto

sine peccato nos custodire.

Miserere nostri, Domine,

miserere nostri,

Fiat misericordia tua, Domine super nos

quemadmodum speravimus in Te.


Vouchsafe, O Lord

to keep us this day without sin.

O Lord, have mercy upon us

have mercy upon us.

O Lord, let they mercy lighten upon us:

as our trust is in thee.



In Te, Domine, speravi,

non confundar in œternum!


O Lord, in thee have I trusted

let me never be confounded.



Miserere mei, Deus




Miserere mei, Deus,

secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.

Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum,

dele iniquitatem meam.

et peccatum meum contra me est semper.


Have mercy upon me,

O God, after thy great goodness

according to the multitude of thy mercies

do away mine offences.

And my sin is ever before me.



Ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis,

et vincas cum judicaris.

Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti:

incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.


That thou mightest be justified in thy saying,

and clear when thou art judged.

But lo, thou requirest truth in the inward parts

and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.



Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis:

et omnes iniquitates meas dele.


Turn thy face from my sins

and put out all my misdeeds.



Docebo iniquos vias tuas:

et impii ad te convertentur.

Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium,

dedissem utique:

holocaustis non delectaberis.


Then shall I teach they ways unto the wicked

and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

For thou desirest no sacrifice.

else would I give it thee

but thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.



Plaude laetare Gallia




Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion:

ut aedificentur muri Jerusalem.

Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae,

oblationes et holocausta:

tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.


O be favourable and gracious unto Sion.

build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifice of

Righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations,

then shall they offer young bullocks upon thine altar.



Plaude laetare Gallia

Rore caelesti rigantur lilia,

Sacro delphinus fonte lavatur

Et christianus christo dicatur.


O Gaul, rejoice and sing.

Heavenly dew bathes the lily,

The Dauphin is washed in the sacred spring

And the Christian is consecrated to Christ.



O Jesu vita precantium

O Jesu vita credentium

Exaudi vota precantium


O Jesu, life to those who pray,

O Jesu, life to those who believe,

Hear the prayer of thy supplicants.



Vivat regnet princeps fidelis

Semper justus, semper victor, semper augustus

Triumphet in caelis

Et sempiterna luceat corona.


Long may the loyal Prince live and reign,

Ever just, ever victorious, ever royal,

May he triumph in heaven

And may his crown shine for ever.


Translation: Adrian Shaw

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