Francois Couperin  
Francois Couperin
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 family.


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 XIV.
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 ("Styles Reunited").
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 (Couperin's Memorial).

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 1880s.
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


Musically, Francois 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.

The ten-year-old 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.

Couperm's most 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.


"Complete harpsichord music"

La Visionaire (better quality - big file)

Les Rozeaux

Les Barricades misterieuses

La Florentine

La Distraite

L´Etincelante ou la Bontems (better quality - big file)

Le Dodo, ou l´amour au Berceau


"Complete chamber music"

La Piémontoise (Sonate)

Les Nations, premier ordre ("La Francoise") Allemande (e-moll)

FRANÇOIS COUPERIN - "Les Concerts Royaux 1722"
1. Prélude Gravement
2. Allemande Légèrement
3. Sarabande Mesuré
4. Gavotte Notes égales et coulés
5. Gigue Légèrement
6. Menuet en trio

7. Prélude Gracieusement
8. Allemande fuguée Gayement
9. Air tendre
10. Air contre fugué Vivement
11. Echos Tendrement

12. Prélude Lentement
13. Allemande Légèrement
14. Courante
15. Sarabande Grave
16. Gavotte
17. Muzette Naivement
18. Chaconne lègere

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


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

Marc Hantaï
flûte traversière Alain Weemaels, Bruxelles ca. 1725
Alfredo Bernardini
hautobois copie de J.H. Rottenburg, Bruxelles ca. 1720
Manfredo Kraemer
violon David Techler, 1734
Josp Borràs
basson Lesile Ross d'après Eichentopf, ca. 1720
Bruno Cocset
basse de violon Charles Riché, 2003 d'après Nicolò Amati (1596-1684)
Xavier Diaz-Latorre
théorbe à 14 ordres Jaume Bolser, Orpí (Barcelone) 2000
guitare à 5 ordres Peter Biffin, Armidale (Australie) 1997
Guido Morini
clavecin Marc-Ducornet, Paris 2003 copie de Ruckers-Taskin (1746-1780)
Jordi Savall
basse de viole Barak Norman, London 1697

Francois Couperin Harpsichord Works, Laurence Cummings
1ère ordre for harpsichord (Pièces de clavecin, I) 0:00

Premier concert, for harpsichord (or violin, flute, oboe, viol & bassoon) in G major (Concerts royaux) 42:16

Deuxième concert, for harpsichord (or violin, flute, oboe, viol & bassoon) in D major (Concerts royaux) 55:47

Laurence Cimmings Harpsichord
Reiko Ichise Treble viol / Viola da Gamba

Harpsichord: copy after double Taskin by Michael Johnson 1983

Francois Couperin L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin,II Book of Harpsichord
Francois Couperin on Collesse 1748 Harpsichord, Hantai
Francois Couperin Le Grand Pieces de Violes
Francois Couperin I Book of Harpsichord Works,Olivier Baumont
First book (1713) - Ordres 1 to 5
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 ondes
François Couperin: Les Lis naissans (for harpsichord)
Couperin - Les Barricades mysterieuses
François Couperin - Troisième Leçon De Ténèbres À 2 Voix
Francois Couperin Les Concerts Royaux, Jordi Savall
Francois Couperin - Passacaille
Huitieme Ordre Passacaille played by Rosemary Thomas Welsh pianist French harpsichord music
"Le Parnasse"
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.
  In 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...
II.Corelli, charmé...
III. Corelli buvant à la Source...
IV. Enthouziasme de Corelli...
V. Corelli... s'endort...
VI. Les Muses réveillent Corelli...
VII. Remerciment de Corelli...

Hespèrion XX
Jordi Savall

François Couperin "La Sultane"
Sonate en Quatuor "La Sultane"

I. [Gravement]
II. [Gaiement]
III. Air [Tendrement]
IV. [Gravement]

Manfredo Kraemer, violin.
Jay Bernfeld, viola da gamba.
Carol Lewis, viola da gamba.
Michel Murgier, basse de violon.
Mike Fentross, theorbo.
Skip Sempé, clavecin.

Capriccion Stravangante.
Director: Skip Sempé

Classical Music Timeline

Classical Music History

Instruments Through the Ages

Composers and Masterworks