francois couperin


  • Modern English composer Thomas Adès took three pieces from different sets of Couperin suites and orchestrated them in his work “Three Studies from Couperin”.

  • A harpsichord playing manual l’Art de toucher le clavecin followed in 1716 (though this was immediately recalled and republished the following year), as well as other collections
    of keyboard and chamber music.

  • “[9] 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.

  • The same year as L’Apothéose de Corelli was published, Couperin published a set of ten pieces, “Nouveaux concerts, ou Les goûts réunis”, that also combined these two different
    styles of Baroque music.

  • Couperin’s four volumes of harpsichord music, published in Paris in 1713, 1717, 1722, and 1730, contain over 230 individual pieces, and he also published a book of Concerts
    Royaux which can be played as solo harpsichord pieces or as small chamber works.

  • [5][6] At the age of 21, Couperin probably had neither the funds nor the reputation to obtain widespread publication and the masses were released as manuscripts, with a printed
    title page and approbation by his teacher, Michel Richard Delalande, who wrote that the music was “very beautiful and worthy of being given to the public.

  • [2] His father Charles was organist at the Church of Saint-Gervais in the city, a position previously held by Charles’s brother Louis Couperin, the esteemed keyboard virtuoso
    and composer whose career was cut short by an early death.

  • As a boy François must have received his first music lessons from his father, but Charles died in 1679 leaving the position at Saint-Gervais to his son, a common practice
    known as survivance that few churches ignored.

  • 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, as well as eight preludes in the keys of the pieces in his first two books of harpsichord music and an Allemande to illustrate the Italianate style.

  • It used both French and Italian styles of Baroque music, to reconcile the very different styles in what Couperin called a réunion des goûts (a reunion of tastes).

  • The next year saw the publication of his Pièces d’orgue, a collection of organ masses praised by Delalande, who may have assisted with the project.

  • The appointment brought him in touch with some of the finest composers of the day as well as the aristocracy.

  • At twenty-one Couperin also lost his mother, Marie (née Guérin), but otherwise his life and career were accompanied by good fortune.

  • 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”.

  • [4] Organ[edit] Only one collection of organ music by Couperin survives, the Pièces d’orgue consistantes en deux messes (“Pieces for Organ Consisting of Two Masses”), which
    were published in November 1690.

  • They are notable for Couperin’s detailed indication of ornaments, which in most harpsichord music of the period was left to the discretion of the player.

  • Life Couperin was born in Paris, into a prominent musical family.

  • His earliest chamber music dates from this time.

  • 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 composer was survived by at least three of his children: Marguerite-Antoinette, who continued working as court harpsichordist until 1741, Marie-Madeleine (Marie-Cécile),
    who became a nun and may have worked as organist at the Maubuisson Abbey, and François-Laurent, who according to contemporary sources left the family after François died.

  • The first and last pieces in an ordre were of the same tonality, but the middle pieces could be in other closely related tonalities.


Works Cited

[‘Beaussant 1990, p. 348.
2. ^ “François Couperin | French composer [1668-1733] | Britannica”.
3. ^ F-Pn, Ms Fr. 21590
4. ^ Savall 2005.
5. ^ Gustafson 2004, p. 115ff.
6. ^ Apel 1972, p. 736ff.
7. ^ Gustafson 2004, p. 115.
8. ^ Apel 1972,
p. 737.
9. ^ Gustafson 2004, p. 116.
10. ^ Apel 1972, p. 738.
2. Apel, Willi (1972). The History of Keyboard Music to 1700. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 736–738.
3. Beaussant, Philippe (1990). François Couperin; translated from
the French by Alexandra Land. Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-27-6.
4. Gauthier, Laure (2008). Mélodies urbaines: la musique dans les villes d’Europe (XVIe-XIXe siécles) (in French). Presses Paris Sorbonne. p. 256. ISBN 978-2-84050-563-1. Retrieved
5. Gillespie, John: Five Centuries of Keyboard Music: An historical survey of music for harpsichord and piano, New York NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1965. ISBN 0-486-22855-X
6. Gustafson, Bruce (2004). “France”. In Alexander Silbiger
(ed.). Keyboard Music Before 1700. New York: Routledge. pp. 115–116. ISBN 9780415968911.
7. Higginbottom, Edward (2001). “Couperin: (4) François Couperin (ii) [le grand]”. In Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music
and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan.‎
8. Mellers, Wilfrid: Francois Couperin and the French Classical Tradition, London UK: Faber & Faber; 1950, 2nd edition October 1987 ISBN 978-0-571-13983-5
9. Savall, Jordi (2005), François Couperin:
Les Concerts Royaux (CD liner notes), Alia Vox, AV9840, Couperin est le musicien-poète par excellence, qui croit en la capacité de la Musique à s’exprimer avec «sa prose et ses vers»…si on entre dans sa profonde dimension poétique, on découvre
qu’ils [referring to the occasional pieces such as Les Concerts Royaux] sont porteurs d’une grâce qui est, «plus belle encore que la beauté…».
10. Tunley, David: Couperin, London UK: BBC Music Guides, 1982 ISBN 978-0-563-17851-4
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