Francois Couperin (French: [fʁɑ̃swa
kupʁɛ̃]; 10 November 1668 – 11 September 1733) was a French
Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. He was known
as Couperin le Grand ("Couperin the Great") to distinguish
him from other members of the musically talented Couperin
Couperin was born in Paris.
He was taught by his father, Charles Couperin, who died when
François was about 10, and by Jacques Thomelin. In 1685 he
became the organist at the church of Saint-Gervais, Paris, a
post he inherited from his father and that he would pass on
to his cousin, Nicolas Couperin, and other members of the
family. In 1693 Couperin succeeded his teacher Thomelin as
organist at the Chapelle Royale (Royal Chapel) with the
title organiste du Roi, organist by appointment to Louis
In 1717 Couperin became court organist and composer, with
the title ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du Roi. With
his colleagues, Couperin gave a weekly concert, typically on
Sunday. Many of these concerts were in the form of suites
for violin, viol, oboe, bassoon and harpsichord, on which he
was a virtuoso player.
Couperin moved to the Rue Radziwill, close to the Académie
Royale de Musique, in 1724. He stayed there for the rest of
his life. He died in Paris in 1733.
Couperin acknowledged his debt to the Italian composer
Corelli. He introduced Corelli's trio sonata form to France.
Couperin's grand trio sonata was subtitled Le Parnasse, ou
L'apothéose de Corelli ("Parnassus, or the Apotheosis of
Corelli"). In it he blended the Italian and French styles of
music in a set of pieces which he called Les goûts réunis
His most famous book, L'art de toucher le clavecin ("The Art
of Harpsichord Playing", published in 1716), contains
suggestions for fingerings, touch, ornamentation and other
features of keyboard technique.
Couperin's four volumes of harpsichord music, published in
Paris in 1713, 1717, 1722, and 1730, contain over 230
individual pieces, which can be played on solo harpsichord
or performed as small chamber works. These pieces were not
grouped into suites, as was the common practice, but ordres,
which were Couperin's own version of suites containing
traditional dances as well as descriptive pieces. The first
and last pieces in an ordre were of the same tonality, but
the middle pieces could be in other closely related
tonalities. These volumes were loved by J.S. Bach and, much
later, Richard Strauss, as well as Maurice Ravel who
memorialized their composer with Le tombeau de Couperin
Many of Couperin's keyboard pieces have evocative,
picturesque titles (such as "The mysterious barricades") and
express a mood through key choices, adventurous harmonies
and (resolved) discords. They have been likened to miniature
tone poems. These features attracted Richard Strauss, who
orchestrated some of them.
Johannes Brahms's piano music was influenced by the keyboard
music of Couperin. Brahms performed Couperin's music in
public and contributed to the first complete edition of
Couperin's Pièces de clavecin by Friedrich Chrysander in the
The early-music expert Jordi Savall has written that
Couperin was the "poet musician par excellence", who
believed in "the ability of Music [with a capital M] to
express itself in prose and poetry", and that "if we enter
into the poetry of music we discover that it carries grace
that is more beautiful than beauty itself".
Only one collection of organ music by Couperin survives,
the Pièces d'orgue consistantes en deux messes ("Pieces for
Organ Consisting of Two Masses"), the first manuscript of
which appeared around 1689-1690. At the age of 21, Couperin
probably had neither the funds nor the reputation to obtain
widespread publication, but the work was approved by his
teacher, Michel Richard Delalande, who wrote that the music
was "very beautiful and worthy of being given to the
public." The two masses were intended for different
audiences: the first for parishes or secular churches ("paroisses
pour les fêtes solemnelles"), and the second for convents or
abbey churches ("couvents de religieux et religieuses").
These masses are divided into many movements in accordance
with the traditional structure of the Latin Mass: Kyrie (5
movements), Gloria (9), Sanctus (3), Agnus (2), and an
additional Offertoire and Deo gratias to conclude each mass.
Couperin followed techniques used in masses by Nivers,
Lebègue, and Boyvin, as well as other predecessors of the
French Baroque era. In the paroisses Mass, he uses
plainchant from the Missa cunctipotens genitor Deus as a
cantus firmus in two Kyrie movements and in the first
Sanctus movement; the Kyrie Fugue subject is also derived
from a chant incipit. The Mass for couvents contains no
plainchant, as each convent and monastery maintained its
own, non-standard body of chant. Couperin departs from his
predecessors in many ways. For example, the melodies of the
Récits are strictly rhythmic and more directional than
previous examples of the genre. Willi Apel wrote, "this
music shows a sense of natural order, a vitality, and an
immediacy of feeling that breaks into French organ music
like a fresh wind."
The longest piece in the collection is the Offertoire sur
les grands jeux of the first Mass, which is akin to an
expanded French overture in three large sections: a prelude,
a chromatic fugue in minor, and a gigue-like fugue. Bruce
Gustafson has called the movement a "stunning masterpiece of
the French classic repertory." The second Mass also contains
an Offertoire with a similar form, but this Mass is not
considered as masterly as the first: Apel wrote, "In
general, [Couperin] did not expend the same care for this
Mass, which was written for modest abbey churches, as for
the other one, which he himself certainly presented on
important holidays on the organ of Saint-Gervais."
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Couperin bridged two eras, the Baroque and the
Classical, to which many of his ideas look forward. He
was born in Paris into a family with a musical tradition
stretching back 200 years. Their church, St Gervais,
employed a member of the Couperin family as organist for
an unbroken period of 173 years.
Couperin's musical abilities were already evident when,
upon his father's death, the position of organist to St
Gervais was formally offered to him. postponed until his
eighteenth birthday. In the meantime a temporary
appointment was made, although accounts suggest that in
fact Couperin frequently played at services and was
given a wage before he was 18. He married Marie-Anne
Ansault when he was 21, and the following year secured a
royal licence to publish his only two organ Masses.
Couperin was an admirer
of Corelli and around 1692 composed a set of tour
sonatas; this marked the beginning of his life-long
affection for the Italian Baroque. At this time it was
principally as a keyboard player that Couperin's
reputation grew. He became one of tour organists to
Louis XIV in 1693 and gamed an increasing reputation as
a harpsichord teacher, his pupils including the King's
children, the Duke of Burgundy, the Count of Toulouse,
the daughters of the Duke of Bourbon, the Dowager
Princess of Conti, and numerous others. Performing also
made great demands on his time, and there are accounts
of him playing at Versailles, Sceaux, and Fontainebleau.
In 1696 he was
presented with his own coat of arms, and six years later
had the distinction of receiving the Order of Chevalier
de Latran. He became the King's harpsichordist, and when
in 1715 the King died, the composer's position remained
secure as the new court surrounding Louis XV brought a
fresh influx of distinguished pupils. Around this time
Couperm composed one of his most impressive pieces of
religious music, Lecons de tenebres, a setting of sacred
texts for solo voices with sparse accompaniment, to be
performed during Holy Week.
important achievements, however, are the four books of
harpsichord works that he wrote between 1713 and 1730.
The individual pieces arc known as Ordres, consisting,
like suites, of a succession of dance movements. Each
Ordre has a title that might be the name of a person or
object, or might be intended to evoke a particular scene
or mood. Examples are Les ombres errantes (The roving
shadows), La visionaire (The dreamer), and Papillons
(Butterflies). The works demonstrate a great variety of
techniques, and display clearly Couperin's success at
fusing elements of French and Italian music.
19. Prélude Gravement
20. Allemande Légèrement
21. Courante françoise
22. Courante à l'italiene
23. Sarabande Très tendrement
24. Rigaudon Légèrement et marqué
25. Forlane. Rondeau Gayement
LE CONCERT DES NATIONS
Marc Hantaï flûte traversière
Alfredo Bernardini hautobois
Manfredo Kraemer violon
Josp Borràs bassoon
Bruno Cocset basse de violon
Xavier Diaz-Latorre théorbe et guitare
Guido Morini clavecin
Jordi Savall basse de viole & direction
flûte traversière Alain Weemaels, Bruxelles ca. 1725
hautobois copie de J.H. Rottenburg, Bruxelles ca. 1720
violon David Techler, 1734
basson Lesile Ross d'après Eichentopf, ca. 1720
basse de violon Charles Riché, 2003 d'après Nicolò Amati
théorbe à 14 ordres Jaume Bolser, Orpí (Barcelone) 2000
guitare à 5 ordres Peter Biffin, Armidale (Australie) 1997
clavecin Marc-Ducornet, Paris 2003 copie de Ruckers-Taskin
basse de viole Barak Norman, London 1697
Harpsichord: copy after
double Taskin by Michael Johnson 1983
L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin,II Book of Harpsichord
on Collesse 1748 Harpsichord, Hantai
Le Grand Pieces de Violes
Francois Couperin I Book of
Harpsichord Works,Olivier Baumont
First book (1713) - Ordres 1
Ordre 1er de clavecin in G minor: Allemande L'Auguste;
Première courante; Seconde courante; Sarabande La
majestueuse; Gavotte; La Milordine, gigue; Menuet (et
double); Les silvains; Les abeilles; La Nanète; Les
sentimens, sarabande; La pastorelle; Les nonètes (Les
blondes, Les brunes); La bourbonnoise, gavotte; La Manon;
L'enchanteresse; La fleurie, ou La tendre Nanette; Les
plaisirs de St Germain en Laÿe
Ordre 2ème de clavecin in D major: Allemande La laborieuse;
Premiere courante; Seconde courante; Sarabande La prude;
L'Antonine; Gavote; Menuet; Canaries (avec double); Passe-pied;
Rigaudon; La Charoloise; La Diane; Fanfare pour la suite de
la Diane; La Terpsicore; La Florentine; La Garnier; La Babet;
Les idées heureuses; La Mimi; La diligente; La flateuse; La
voluptueuse; Les papillons
Ordre 3ème de clavecin in C major: La ténébreuse, allemande;
Premiere courante; Seconde courante; La lugubre, sarabande;
Gavotte; Menuet; Les pélerines; Les laurentines;
L'Espagnolète; Les regrets; Les matelotes provençales; La
favorite, chaconne; La lutine
Ordre 4ème de clavecin in F major: La marche des gris-vêtus;
Les baccanales; La pateline; Le réveil-matin
Ordre 5ème de clavecin in A major: La logiviére, allemande;
Premier courante; Seconde courante; La dangereuse, sarabande;
Gigue; La tendre Fanchon; La badine; La bandoline; La Flore;
L'Angélique; La Villers; Les vendangeuses; Les agrémens; Les
Les Lis naissans (for harpsichord)
Couperin - Les
- Troisième Leçon De Ténèbres À 2 Voix
Francois Couperin Les Concerts Royaux, Jordi Savall
Passacaille played by Rosemary Thomas Welsh pianist French
Late in his life
Couperin Francois composed two chamber works that summed up
his musical thinking on the reconciliation between French
and Italian styles. It was an argument that had dominated
the musical scene in France for much of the seventeenth
century, and one that gained new focus with the
extraordinary success of the trio sonatas of Arcangelo
Corelli during the 1680s and 1690s. In his younger
days Couperin had been among those unable to resist
the all-pervasive triumph of Corelli's sonatas.
Among the works he composed during his twenties,
several sonatas for two violins and continuo show
Corelli's influence to such a degree that Couperin
was branded for his "Italianisms." Couperin was in
fact far too individual a composer to slavishly
adhere to any style, and his great achievement was
to seek a reconciliation that, in the words appended
to the final movement of his Lully Apotheosis, would
"achieve a new perfection in music."
This philosophy was above all articulated in that
work, which appeared in 1725, and the Apotheosis of
Corelli, published the previous year.
taking the two greatest protagonists of the opposing styles
for his subject matter, Couperin was clearly laying out the
philosophy which had guided his artistic career. Like its
sister work, the Corelli Apotheosis is scored in standard
trio sonata form for two violins and continuo. There are
seven movements, which, as in the Lully piece, are given
picturesque titles and are clearly programmatic. The first
movement finds the great Italian composer at the foot of
Parnassus, gravely asking the Muses to admit him. The music
has a typical Corellian breadth and seriousness. He is
accepted and expresses his joy in a fugal movement. In the
third movement Corelli relaxes by a fountain to long,
sustained notes and suspensions. After a rapid movement
recalling Corelli's virtuosity, he falls asleep to a "Sommeil,"
a dreamlike movement typical of those found in many Italian
"church sonatas" of the period. He is awakened by the Muses
to another lively movement, before finally expressing his
thanks in a florid and dynamic fugue. Couperin's supreme
achievement in the Corelli Apotheosis is to pay tribute to
Corelli while never for one moment allowing us to forget
that he is a French composer achieving a true reunion
between the two styles.
François Couperin: Le Parnasse ou L'Apothéose de Corelli
Le Parnasse, ou
L'Apothéose de Corelli, trio sonata for 2 violins & continuo
(Les Goûts réunis)
I. Corelli au pied du Parnasse...
III. Corelli buvant à la Source...
IV. Enthouziasme de Corelli...
V. Corelli... s'endort...
VI. Les Muses réveillent Corelli...
VII. Remerciment de Corelli...
François Couperin "La Sultane"
Sonate en Quatuor "La Sultane"
III. Air [Tendrement]
Manfredo Kraemer, violin.
Jay Bernfeld, viola da gamba.
Carol Lewis, viola da gamba.
Michel Murgier, basse de violon.
Mike Fentross, theorbo.
Skip Sempé, clavecin.