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8.554398 - LULLY: Grand Motets, Vol. 2

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)
Grands Motets, Vol. 2

"Exit Perrin, vivat Lully" must have been the cry of some onlookers in 1672 when the ambitious composer purchased the privilege of the Royal Academy of Music from the unfortunate librettist, then imprisoned for debt. Pierre Perrin (1620-1675) seems only to have existed in order to spare Lully the tiresome bother of founding the Academy of Music (1669) and trying out the first production of French opera, Pomone (1671) with music by Cambert. Fate seems to have singled him out to plough the field in which Lully would sow the seeds of his fame. There has been little interest in his pre-opera career, and yet he was one of the prime movers in the renewal of the French motet which was to set the king's glory on an equal footing with that of God and, in its choice of texts and method of performance, sometimes give us cause to imagine that the more powerful of the two is not the one we might think.

In the foreword to his Cantica pro Capella Regis (1665), Pierre Perrin tells us that "three [motets] are generally sung, a full one, a small one for the Elevation and a Domine salvum fac regem". At a time when most churches in France followed the usages of the Chapel Royal, Perrin provided a made to measure definition of the motet according to Louis XIV's tastes: "The motet is a varied piece of several strains for voices or instruments, connected but different (...). However, the variety of the piece will be all the greater, and the composition easier for the Musician, if variety is practiced in the Stanzas and Verses and if they are composed for continual change (…)." The theory, though following on from a number of practical examples, nonetheless became a veritable canon, the extension of which culminated in the pointilliste style of the eighteenth century in which most verses were treated as separate movements. Of course different images and affects abound in Perrin's Cantica: "It is for that reason that, having to compose the words of motets for Mass at the King's Chapel, I have followed this method". Perrin's theories and poetry were all the more influential for being immediately viewed as exemplary. And to everyone's astonishment this was the humble task that Lully, orchestrator of royal entertainments, Superintendent of Music, Composer of the King's Bedchamber, sought for himself His Miserere (1664) was to have a lasting influence on the sub-masters of the Chapel Royal. He may be regarded as the first great exponent of the first age of the French "grand motet". Of course the motet had not yet become a series of separate movements, but each image and each idea in the text is given appropriate musical treatment.

Lully drew his texts from the Cantica pro Capella Regis on three occasions: for the "petit motet" Ave coeli munus supernum and for the full motets O Lachrymae fideles and Plaude laetare.

O Lachrymae fideles was probably composed during the winter of 1664, at the same time as or shortly after the Miserere. Perrin's poem is a plea in which the sinner is a fountain of tears imploring redemption; Lully's setting is the earliest work on this recording and, like the other three, calls for a small choir of soloists, a five-part chorus and a five-part orchestra.

Quare fremuerunt (Psalm II) was first performed on 19th April, 1685 in Versailles but was probably composed in 1684 during the Regensburg Truce. The Bible calls this a royal psalm and, during the period which concerns us here, it was sung in time of war. The psalm reads like a libretto for an oratorio: Israel's neighbours are rising up and preparing to attack the Lord's people and their king, but in vain because God has promised the king, his adopted son, dominion over all the earth. The political connotations in 1685 were clear: anyone attacking Louis XIV, king by divine right, was attacking God. Lully's music reflects these images of war and wrath. The violence of the opening orchestral motif sets the tone for the entire work, written in the key of C major which Marc-Antoine Charpentier qualified as "gay and martial". Closely following the text, Lully's motet seems to be arranged as three tableaux. The first takes us to the end of verse 6 and is chiefly characterized by a lively tempo and agitated writing, reflecting anger and terror. The only moment of respite comes in verse 4, Qui habitat in caelis, with God's laughter on the word irridebit illustrated by a vocalise in a rhetorical flourish worthy of the best comédie-ballets. The mood in the second section, covering verses 6 to 8, is more serene; it is the moment when the king reaffirms his confidence in God. The final section mirrors the text, alternating stormy and quiet passages and highlighting contrasts in a musical design that is the very image of the one described by Pierre Perrin twenty years previously.

Lully wrote his Dies irae for the funeral of Louis XIV's wife, Queen Marie-Thérèse, who died on 30th July, 1683. The Dies irae was sung after the mass, in the great basilica of Saint Denis, and just before the De profundis. The two works are thus historically indissociable. The orchestras of the Chapel and Bedchamber joined the monks of the abbey for the occasion.

The Dies irae is written as a single movement in the principal key of G minor. Although the text is full of apocalyptic images, Lully approaches it in a mood of serenity: his emphasis is on death as deliverance rather than death as punishment. One of the best examples of this conception comes in the Confutatis: the image of flames consuming the wicked (confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis), depicted in agitated, homophonic writing for the two choirs, lasts a mere five bars, while the last line of the verse, voca me cum benedictis, is developed over 44 bars illustrating the plenitude of the soul going to join the elect. Of course contrasts abound, like the massive power of the Rex tremendae majestatis emphasized by the calm of the two short recitatives (for haute-contre and bass) which bracket it. Another notable feature is the distribution of the solo writing; the soprano has no recitative at all and the lion's share, including the opening verse based on Gregorian chant, is given to the bass, an unusual occurrence because when composers wished to exploit the lower register they generally preferred to use the baritone voice.

De Profundis (Psalm CXXIX), the sixth of the seven penitential psalms, has an important place in the liturgy for the dead. The psalmist, aware of his sin, expects forgiveness only through the grace of God. The piece is in the same key as the Dies irae (G minor) and has the same form. The final verse of the psalm is followed by a symphonie or orchestral passage leading to the Introit Requiem aeternam, whose mainly contrapuntal writing marvellously suggests the peace and light of eternal rest. This apotheosis confirms the confidence that ought to be placed in divine forgiveness and is the central message of the De profundis.

Translation: Adrian Shaw


Quare fremuerunt Gentes (Psalmus II)


Why do the heathen rage





Quare fremuerunt Gentes

et populi meditati sunt inania.

Astiterunt Reges terrae

et principes convenerunt in unum

adversus Dominum

et adversus Christum ejus.

"Dirumpamus vincula eorum:

et projiciamus a nobis jugum ipsorum."

Qui habitat in caelis irridebit eos

et Dominus subsunnabit eos.

Tunc loquetur ad eos in ira sua

et in furore suo conturbabit eos.

Ego autem constitutus sum Rex

ab eo super Sion montem sanctum ejus

praedicans praeceptum ejus.

Dominus dixit ad me:

"Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te.

Postula a me, et dabo tibi gentes

haereditatem tuam

et possessionem tuam terminos terrae.




Why do the heathen rage,

and the people imagine a vain thing?

The kings of the earth stand up,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord,

and against his anointed, saying,

Let us break their bonds asunder,

and cast away their cords from us.

He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh:

the Lord shall have them in derision.

Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath,

and vex them in his sore displeasure.

Yet have I set my king

upon my holy hill of Zion.

I will declare the decree:

the Lord hath said unto me,

Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen

for thine inheritance,

and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.



Reges eos invirga ferrea

et tanquam vas figuli confriges eos.


Et nunc reges intelligite.

Erudimini qui judicatis terram. "

Servite Domino in timore

et exultate ei, cum tremore.

Apprehendite disciplinam,

nequando irascatur Dominus:

et pereatis de via justa.

Cum exarserit ejus in brevi ira ejus

beati omnes qui confidunt in eo.


Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;

thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.


Be wise now therefore, O ye kings:

be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear,

and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son,

lest he be angry,

and ye perish from the way,

when his wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.



O Lachrymae (poésie de Pierre Perrin)


O faithful tears (Pierre Perrin)





O Lachrymae fideles dolentis animae

Exite nostris cordibus,

et es oculis rorate plenis fontibus.

O fons amoris in te peccavimus.

Sed prae dolore faciem velimus,

pectora tundimus.

Non in gaudio sed in fletu .

Non in jubilo, sed in planctu,

Invocamus te Domine Jesu.




O faithful tears of the sorrowful soul

Come forth from our hearts,

and drop from the eyes in a plentiful fountain.

O fountain of love we have sinned against you.

Because of our sorrow we tear our face,

we beat our breast.

Not in joy, but in weeping.

Not in jubilation, but in mourning.

We invoke you, Lord Jesus.



Exultent caeli, cantent angeli,

sancti laetentur,

Et in excelsis tibi modulemur cantica pacis.

Cantica gloriae, laudis et victoriae.

Nos peccatores peccata flebimus,

Et lugebimus, et clamabimus.


Let the heavens exult, let the angels sing,

let the saints be joyful,

And to you on high let us intone chants of peace.

Let us intone chants of glory, praise, and victory.

We sinners will weep over our sins,

And we will mourn, and we will cry out.



Dies irae


Day of Wrath





Dies irae, dies illa.

Solvet saeclum in favilla:

teste David cum Sybilla.


Quantus tremor est futurus

Quando judex est venturus

Cuncta stricte discussurus!


Tuba mirum spargens sonum

per sepulcra regionum

coget omnes ante thronum.


Mors stupebit et natura,

Cum resurget creatura

Judicanti responsura


Liber scriptus proferetur

in quo totum continetur,

unde mundus judicetur.


Judex ergo sedebit

Quidquid latet apparebit

Nil in ultum remanebit


Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?

Quem patronum rogaturus

cum vix justus sit securus.


Rex tremendae majestatis,

qui salvandos salvas grutis

salva me, fons pietatis.


Recordare Jesu pie,

Quod sum causa tuae viae

Ne me perdas illa die.




Day of wrath and doom impending,

David's word with Sibyl's blending!

Heaven and earth in ashes ending!


Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth,

When from heaven the Judge descendeth,

On whose sentence all dependeth!


Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,

Through earth's sepulchres it ringeth,

All before the throne it bringeth.


Death is struck and nature quaking,

All creation is awaking,

To its Judge an answer making.


Lo! the book exactly worded,

Wherein all hath been recorded;

Thence shall judgment be awarded.


When the Judge His seat attaineth,

And each hidden deed arraigneth,

Nothing unavenged remaineth.


What shall I, frail man, be pleading?

Who for me be interceding,

When the just are mercy needing?


King of majesty tremendous,

Who dost tree salvation send us,

Fount of pity, then befriend us.


Think, kind Jesu, my salvation

Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation;

Leave me not to reprobation.



Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:

redemisti crucem passus

tantus labor non sit cassus.


Juste judex ultionis,

Donum fac remissionis

Ante diem rationis.


Ingemisco, tanquam reus:

culpa rubet vultus meus:

supplicanti parce, Deus.


Qui Mariam absolvisti

et latronem exaudisti

Mihi quoque spem dedisti.


Preces meae non sunt dignae

sed tu bonus fac benigne,

ne perenni cremer igne.


Inter oves locum praesta

Et ab haedis me sequestra

Statuens in parte dextra


Confutatis maledictis,

flammis acribus addictis:

voca me cum benedictis.


Oro supplex et acclinis

cor contritum quasi cinis

Gere curam me in finis.


Lacrymosa dies illa,

qua resurget ex favilla

judicandus homo reus:

huic ergo parce Deus.

Faint and weary thou hast sought me,

On the Cross of suffering bought me,

Shall such grace be vainly brought me?


Righteous Judge, for sin's pollution,

Grant thy gift of absolution,

Ere that day of retribution.


Guilty now I pour my moaning,

All my shame with anguish owning;

Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning.


Through the sinful woman shriven,

Through the dying thief forgiven,

Thou to me a hope hast given.


Worthless are my prayers and sighing,

Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,

Rescue me from fires undying.


With Thy sheep a place provide me,

From the goats afair divide me,

To Thy right hand do Thou guide me.


When the wicked are confounded,

Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,

Call me, with Thy Saints surrounded.


Low I kneel, with heart submission!

See, like ashes, my contrition!

Help me in my last condition!


Ah! that day of tears and mourning!

From the dust of earth returning,

Man for judgment must prepare him;

Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!





Pie Jesu Domine,

dona eis requiem. Amen.




Lord, all pitying, Jesu blest,

Grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.



De profundis (Psalmus CXXIX)


Out or the deep



De projundis clamavi ad te, Domine;

Domine exaudi vocem meam.

Fiant aures tuae intendentes

in vocem deprecationis meae.

Si iniquitates observaveris,


Domine, quis sustinebit?


Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord:

Lord hear my voice.

O let thine ears consider well:

the voice of my complaint.

If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark

what is done amiss:

O Lord, who may abide it?



Quis apud te propitiatio est,

et propter legem tuam,

sustinui te, Domine.

Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus;

speravit anima mea in Domino

A custodia matutina usque ad noctem,

sperat Israël in Domino.

Quia apud Dominum miserieordia,

et copiosa apud eum redemptio.

Et ipse redimet Israël

ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.


For there is mercy with thee:

therefore shalt thou be feared;

I look for the Lord;

my soul doth wait for him; in his word is my trust.

My soul fleeth unto the Lord:

before the morning watch.

O Israel, trust in the Lord,

for with the Lord there is mercy:

and with him is plenteous redemption.

And he shall redeem Israel:

from all his sins.



Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.

Et lux perpetua luceat eis.


Grant them eternal rest, O Lord

and let perpetual light shine upon them.


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