6 May 2012

Grandeur and Frivolity: Music, Fashion and Dance in the Courts of Louis XIV & XV

From Composer of the Week, 9:00 am on 6 May 2012

Louis XIV The Sun KingGrandeur and Frivolity refers to the overall theme of the respective reigns of Louis XIV (The Sun King) and Louis XV (le Bien-Aimé / The Beloved). Here, Clarissa Dunn looks at the music in the courts of The Sun King (left) and The Beloved (right).Louis XV The Beloved

Louis XIV cultivated grandeur in all aspects of his court. Towards the end of his reign though he literally reigned things in. Under the guidance of his mistress, turned wife, Madame de Maintenon his extravagant tastes and love of spectacle were exchanged for a more modest and restrained lifestyle.

When Louis XIV died in 1715 his great-grandson succeeded him as Louis XV. His reign coincided with the Age of Enlightenment and a generation increasingly repelled by grandeur. They favoured lightness and simplicity. Music from this period endeavoured to simplify that of the preceding late baroque and is known as the ‘style galant’. Fashion and art from this period is known as rococo.

Composer Jean Baptiste LullyComposer Francois CouperinComposer Jean-Phillipe Rameau

Featured composers (L-R): Jean-Baptiste Lully, Francois Couperin and Jean-Phillipe Rameau

Dance is the marriage of music and movement and helps us to understand the characteristics of certain types of music. Baroque dancer Keith McEwing demonstrates the refinement of movement so cherished in the court of the Sun King (see video below).Composer and lace-maker Jean Marie Leclair

Dance is also where fashion meets music. We’ve selected images of 17th and 18th century costume, created by Leimomi Oakes, as an introduction to the intriguing world of fashion that was so important at court and is still cherished today. Many musicians also had skills in this industry including the violin virtuoso and composer Jean-Marie Leclair (right) who was also a skilled lace-maker.

Gallery: Fashion in the time of Louis XIV & XV

Two Chaconnes performed by Keith McEwing

1. Music by Jean Baptiste Lully – Chaconne of Amadís(a lyric tragedy)
Dance composed by Anthony L’Abbé
(Choreographer and dancing master who came to London from France around 1699.L’Abbé became Royal Dancing Master on the accession of George I)

2. Chaconne for a Harlequin
Music attributed to Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Dance composed by F. Le Roussau (c. 1728)

Musicians: Robert Oliver (bass viol) and Andrea Oliver (baroque flute)
Keith’s costumes: Jane Woodhall