François Couperin (1668-1733).

François Couperin. nephew to Louis Couperin, represents the peek of music evolution during the period of Louis the 14th, and a sort of  compilation of musical styles in vogue at the time: he is the composer of "Les Gôuts Reunis" ("the assembled tastes").

Born and died in Paris, respectively in the years of 1668 and 1733, since an early age he learned music with his father. First influenced by french music, later he would come to know Corelli's music, which left a srong impression in Couperin, leading to an italianisation of his music.

His work, though proliferous, is not as varied as those of Lully or Marais, as he did not compose Operas and other forms of music current at the time. His work consists mainly of chamber music, religious music and keyboard pieces. The most important of these sets is that of keyboard music, especially the theorical book "L'art de toucher le clavecin".

The harpsichord writing of Couperin is an outstanding achievement, as he made the instrument sound as never had it before or ever would: his "piéces de clavecin" are exquisite mysterious titled poems, that demand an exceptional technique, resulting in an elevating music unique in every sense.

His chamber music is also of remarkable quality: Couperin's most important work in this domain is "Les Nations", a set of pieces for two violins and "basso continuo", that in some versions are accompanied by two oboes, flutes and bassoons. These suites represent the most achieved effort of adaptation of the italian "sonata" to the french taste. Each of them (named: "La Francaise", "L"Espagnole", "L'Imperiale" and "La Piemontoise") begin with a "sonade" (not "ouvertures", Couperin insisted) followed by a suite of  dances in the french tradition.

Of his religious music, the most important work is the set of the Tenebrae lessons, a set of chants for the morning offices of the holy week, showing an outstanding mastery in the domain of the 17th century french motet and an incomparable religious sentiment

 

 

François Couperin: Concerts Royaux 

François Couperin: Leçons de Ténèbres

 

Reccomended recordings:

"Les Nations": Hespèrion XX, Jordi Savall, Auvidis Fontanalis.

"La Sultane", "La Superbe", and Suites for viol: Skip Sempé, Jay Bernfeld, Capriccio Stravagante, Deusche Harmonia Mundi.

"Leçons des Ténèbres": Concerto Vocale, Harmonia Mundi.

"Piéces de Clavençin": Blandine Verlet, Astrée Auvidis, record named "Les Barricades Mésterieuses".

 

                                    

L'art de toucher le Clavecin                      The first Tenebrae lesson                                                               Harpsichord piece of the fifth order.

 

 

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