Classical Tyro

A Beginner's Guide to Great Music

The Composer Who Killed Himself Conducting


Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) is credited with founding French opera and developing the French Baroque style in music. His service in the court of Louis XIV made him the most famous musician and composer of his time, and his work as a musician was much appreciated by the king who turned a blind eye to his homosexuality and protected him from the Catholic church.

In music history, however, Lully is too often best known for how he died. Poor Jean-Baptiste was conducting his own composition,
Te Deum, and while keeping time by pounding the floor with a wooden staff he hit his own toe. After gangrene set in, he refused to have his toe amputated and died on March 22. Weird, but true.


Lully, Te Deum (William Christie conducting Les Arts Florissants)
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