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ClassicsOnline Home » LULLY: Grand Motets, Vol. 2
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
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
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
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
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
Gentes (Psalmus II)
Why do the heathen
meditati sunt inania.
convenerunt in unum
et projiciamus a
nobis jugum ipsorum."
Qui habitat in
caelis irridebit eos
Tunc loquetur ad
eos in ira sua
et in furore suo
constitutus sum Rex
ab eo super Sion
montem sanctum ejus
Dominus dixit ad
es tu, ego hodie genui te.
Postula a me, et
dabo tibi gentes
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
judicatis terram. "
Servite Domino in
et exultate ei,
et pereatis de
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
O Lachrymae fideles dolentis animae
Exite nostris cordibus,
et es oculis
rorate plenis fontibus.
O fons amoris in
Sed prae dolore
Non in gaudio sed
in fletu .
Non in jubilo,
sed in planctu,
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.
Et in excelsis
tibi modulemur cantica pacis.
laudis et victoriae.
Et lugebimus, et
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.
Day of Wrath
Dies irae, dies
Solvet saeclum in
teste David cum
Quando judex est
coget omnes ante
Mors stupebit et
in quo totum
Nil in ultum
Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus
cum vix justus sit securus.
Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos salvas grutis
salva me, fons pietatis.
Quod sum causa
Ne me perdas illa
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.
tantus labor non
Mihi quoque spem
Preces meae non
sed tu bonus fac
ne perenni cremer
Inter oves locum
Et ab haedis me
Statuens in parte
voca me cum
Oro supplex et
Gere curam me in
qua resurget ex
huic ergo parce
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.
Lord, all pitying, Jesu blest,
Grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.
Out or the deep
clamavi ad te, Domine;
Fiant aures tuae
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
et propter legem
mea in verbo ejus;
mea in Domino
matutina usque ad noctem,
sperat Israël in
Quia apud Dominum
et copiosa apud
Et ipse redimet
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.
dona eis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
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LULLY: Grand Motets, Vol. 2