François Couperin (Paris10 november 1668 -d. Dresden, 11 september 1733) was a French composer.

He is the most important and best known member of the Couperin composers dynasty. Couperin, nicknamed ' Le Grand ', can be counted amongst the leadingBaroque composers, and in particular of harpsichord music. His harpsichord music is characterized by a highly idiomatic character, both in terms of her very personal style as for the close commitment with the properties of the instrument. In addition to his harpsichord music wrote Couperin organ music, religious and secular vocal music and Chamber music. In addition, he published theoretical works about playing the harpsichord (L'Art de toucher le clavecin) and the guide in the Règles pour l'accompagnement music.


[hide]*The Couperins 1

The Couperins[Edit]Edit

The Couperins were from Chaumes-en-Brie: François ' grandfather Charles was there skilled amateur organist of the local church and monastery, his three sons Louis Couperin (1626-1661), François, nicknamed ' L'Ancien ' (1631-1701) and Charles, the father of François Couperin (1638-1679) made a music career in Paris. Louis as organist at St. Gervais and later as one of the official organists of Louis XIV, François François Couperins father as organist and also as a violinist. All three were Jacques Champion de Chambonnièresthey pupil of Jean-Henry d'Anglebert , with one of the most important representatives of the first French harpsichord school. It was also to thank their stepping stone to the Chambonnières could make in the professional music life. After the death of Louis Charles followed his brother as organist of the Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais Church. In the organists dwelling of that Church was François Couperin born. François was probably the first musical principles learned from his father.

Organist of the Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais Church[Edit]Edit

  • [1]

    Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais Church: façade

  • [2]

    Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais Church: organ 17th and 18th century

  • [3]

    Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais Church: ship

[4]Michel-Richard Delalande

Charles Couperin died, like his brother, at a young age and the then 10-year-old François Couperin inherited his fathers organists post at St. Gervais in Paris. The organistJacques-Denis Thomelin took pity on him and brought him a solid basic knowledge of the counterpoint was on display at, knowledge spread in his first work, the Pièces d'orgue (1690). Would actually occupy the post until May 18 as Couperin he had become, but the interim organist, Michel-Richard Delalande, had seen his heavy function at the Court no objection to François Couperin was already previously installed. With the support of Delalande acquired Couperin in 1690 a ' privilège du Roi ', an official permit, in this case for publishing music. The previous year he was married to Marie-Anne Ansault, which had important family connections in social life: so are the first two harpsichord books dedicated to important government officials. The good connections ensured that he in 1693, as organist, got access to the Court, succeeding Jean-Baptiste Buterne-Denis Thomelin, next to Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers , Nicolas Lebègue and.

Les goûts-réunis: the French and Italian style connected[Edit]Edit

[5]Arcangelo Corelli

Couperin also worked at the end of the 17th century to a collection of six Sonatas; Apart from La SteinquerqueLa sultane and La superbe in 1726, the other three were later under another name, included in the collection Les NationsLa pucelleLa visionary et L'Astrée (respectively in Les Nations listed as La Française, La PiémontoiseandL'Espagnole ). In the preface of the sonatas, which he named sonade, he tells gallicized to tasty over the origin of the sonatas. It concerned the so-called new works by an Italian composer who him by his cousin Marc-Roger Normand Couperin, in service to the Court of Naples, were sent. Couperin made an anagram of his name that he originally wanted them back. The works are like the Couperins first compositions by Arcangelo Corelli, a highly regarded him admiration in 1724 reached its peak with Le Parnasse, ou L'apotheose the Corelli. Italian music was in France by the influence of the originally Italian – incidentally – composer Jean-Baptiste Lully not bon ton. In Italian music had the violin a leading place; the violin in France was an instrument of minstrels and for dance masters, domestic servants or'd ' autres gens de l ' (Beaus sant, 66), the nobility played lute or viol.

  • [6]

    The lute composer Charles Mouton

  • [7]

    Henriette de France, daughter of Louis XV, with viola da gamba

The violin was used as an ensemble instrument for opera and ballet, but not as an independent and full fledged instrument. The share in the recognition of the violin as a serious instrument by Couperin, of this ' Sadeghi passionné de l'Italie "(this dedicated servant of Italy, such as Anthony Lecerf called him; quoted in), was thus in a sense pioneering in France. Couperin succeeded in doing well in a style while maintaining Italian and French elements in a proper mixing, truly ' goûts réunis '. Especially in his motets is the musical to see which he did this in a balanced way, without imitation of ' la manière italienne '. French are the short phrases, the rhythm and melodic formulas from the airs sérieuix or dance, the careful decorations, Italian the lively musical images that support the text and that the drama help paint, the insertion of vocalises in the melody line, the abrupt change of tonality and the widely used chromaticism. Sometimes parts pure Italian in style, sometimes very French. Couperin wrote no grand motet, Delalande, like Lully or Campra did, with their pregnantere and their full psalm settings with much pomp and circumstance, but had preferred for displaying more intimate lyrical feelings within the petit motet (Anthony).

Musician at the Court of Versailles[Edit]Edit

He died in Paris in 1693 as Couperins designation du roi and revenues in France opened possibilities of when to achieve anywhere else were. Shortly after his arrival at the Court he was charged with giving harpsichord lessons to Louis XIV's grandson, Louis of France, Duke of Burgundy, and other princes and princesses of the blood, such as Louis Alexandre, count of Toulouse, and his sister, Louise Françoise, nicknamed Mlle. de Nantes, both children of Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV. Also the daughters of Mlle. de Nantes got lesson of Couperin and life still persists in the harpsichords pieces which he dedicated to them: la Bourbonnaisela Charoloise and la Princesse de Sens. After just three years, he acquired the – to run his own weapon paid – privilege. Starting from 1700 Couperins were more varied musical activities and took part in concerts in Fontainebleau and VersaillesSceaux. In 1717 he D'Anglebert's eye problems were so serious that had to resign his position as hofklavecinist; Couperin was appointed as successor and from then on he was the Ordinaire de la Musique de la Chambre du Roi pour le Clavecin. As court composer Couperin was responsible not only for chamber music (the Concerts royaux, published in 1722, and Les goûts-réünis, published in 1724), but also for music for the Chapelle royale.

[8]Marie Leszczyńska

The famous harpsichord books – with a total of over 240 pieces for harpsichord-published from 1713, after he in that year had obtained a printing permit for thirty years – enough, as it turns out, for the rest of his life. Previously circulated all harpsichords pieces by Couperin in script form and the Publisher Ballard had already included in anonymous pieces in 1707 Pièces choisis pour le clavecin. Couperin ranked its pieces according to show nature, but calling such a planning, if not only, suites or suites de pièces de clavecin, but ordres. After the death of Louis XIV in 1715, the Court on its work to put Couperin including harpsichord lessons to the Polish Princess Maria Leszczyńska, wife of the future King Louis XV and daughter of the displaced Polish Prince Stanisław Leszczyński. La Princesse Marie from the third harpsichord book musical yet reminds to her. In 1716, followed the second harpsichord book L'Art de toucher le clavecin and the. Between the first and the second book is as it were a pass mark.Premier Livre de Clavecin in style from 1713 is more severe and more in line with current harpsichord style in France. Starting from the second book are much more typical compositions and clearer ' Couperin': very strong individual character pieces with a very strong melody. Also the first three Leçons de tenebres came out during this period.Couperin had a series of nine planned; whether they all actually been written is unknown, the last six were never published and they are also not in script form surrendered.The third harpsichord book appeared in 1722, with there in the four Concerts royauxincluded. Réünis ou Les goûts Nouveaux concerts came in 1724 from five to fourteen, numbered consecutively, as a sequel to the Concerts royaux. That was ' une grande Sonade and fourteenth concert Trio intitulée Le Parnasse ou l'Apothéose the Corelli'.That Sonata was in 1725 followed by the logical counterpart: Concert à la mémoire composé intrumental sous le titre d'Apothéose immortelle de l'incomparable Monsieur de Lully. The Italian and French taste were again United.

As was outlined above, in addition to the lute, the viol (viole in French) the instrument for the nobility and the emerging distinguished citizenry. Couperins share in quantity of music for this instrument is not large, in qualitative terms it is a highlight in the genre. In his Pièces de violes 1728 appeared In and last. In the preface also complains about his poor Health-Couperin in the music: a title from the 26th next item is "La Convalescente" (recovering). The same year gave Couperin are both hofverplichtingen on; his daughter Marguerite-Antoinette took the harpsichord tasks, Guillaume Marchand, Louis Marchands son, the tasks in the Royal Chapel. Three years later, on 11 september 1733 François Couperin, died in Paris.

Shortly before his death had Couperin are extended to the printing of privilege are not-published works as possible. None of his heirs has performed that task and thus is an important part of his works have been lost. There is little material left over that of Couperin any insight into the person Couperin. There is no correspondence preserved; letters he exchanged with Bach would have been used as jam jar closures (see Hale). Impressions of contemporaries are rare and he was not the man who played a prominent role in the society life.


At the peak of his musical career was Couperin considered a harpsichord and organ composer and teacher who had no equal. He was internationally known; Johann Sebastian Bach took his Les Bergeries (6th ordre, second book) in the Notenbüchlein für Anna-Magdalena Bach. In addition to his position at Court, that for the first quarter of the year gold (the other three quarters were the three other musicians-composers in function), had to Couperin also fulfill its obligations in the St. Gervais. A busy life, what for him, as he indicates in the preface, the late appearance of his first harpsichord book stated. In France wore contemporaries – Nicholas SiretLouis-Antoine Dornelthe Painter Michel Montéclair – work to him.

[9]Antoine Forqueray

Named after one of his pieces to Antoine Forqueray gamba him; and Couperin in turn one of his harpsichords pieces to him, La Superbe ou la Forqueray in the 17th ordre from the third book. Later composers also contributed work to him: Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel are Études are Le tombeau de CouperinJohannes Brahms gave, along with Chrysander, the first complete edition of Couperins harpsichord work. Richard Strauss arranged harpsichord works for his Suite for small orchestra from 1923. Interest in Couperin is significantly lower than elsewhere in Netherlands and if it here than it is an interest for Couperin for his uncle Louis Couperin. The strong sensual by François Couperins music, with sense of humor and not totally focused on rigorous reflection, makes that kind of compositions that Couperin wrote-and that of many of his French contemporaries and later by Dutch Baroque and Baroque roccococomponisten-lovers, too quick and easy, be dismissed if wuft and/or superficial.

L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin Couperins theoretical work (the art of playing the harpsichord) is invaluable, as it is both the point of view of an early-18th-century composer himself gives in the manner how he wants to see his work carried out, but also because it gives a wealth of information on the implementing praxis of keyboard music from the Baroque and that of the French in particular. The work is written in a sympathetic, almost endearing style in which the reader is addressed directly and includes eight preludesand an allemande. Couperin is not the composer of great music-architectural constructions as Bach's Kunst der Fuge or Beethoven's hammerklavier-sonate, but the Grand Master of the musical invention on the square centimeter, a miniaturist, who was able within a comparatively short musical cutlery a atmosphere that has no equal.


Religious vocal music[Edit]Edit

  • Laudate pueri dominum. Motet for two, the Sopranos Psaume CXIII and bass, ' Symphonie ' for 2 violins and basso continuo (c. 1693-97)
  • Quatre versets du Motet composé de l'ordre du roy the CXVIII, Psaume (1703), followed by Qui that nivem. Verset du Motet de l ' année dernière (1702)
  • Sept versets du Motet composé de l'ordre du roy the LXXXIX, Psaume (1704)
  • Sept versets du Motet composé de l'ordre du roy the SUCH WILL, Psaume (1705)
  • , Elevations:
    • Audite omnes et expanescite, for haute-contre, ' Symphonie ' for 2 violins, and bc
    • Victoria: Christi resurgenti. Motet pour le jour de Pâques (1679-80), for two Sopranos and bc
    • O mysterium ineffabile, for soprano, bass and bc
    • O amor, O gaudium, for haute-contre, tenor, bass and bc
    • O Jesu amantissime, for haute-contre, tenor and bc
    • Venice exultemus Domine, for bas-dessus dessus, and bc
    • Quid retribuam tibi Domine, for haute-contre and bc
    • Magnificat, for two dessus and bc
    • O Domine quia refugium. Motet (on psalm 90; 1679-80), for two basses-tailles, bass and bc
    • Dialogus inter Deum et hominem: Accedo ad to mi Jesu (1679-80), for haute-contre, bass and bc
    • Laetentur coeli. Motet de Saint Barthélemy, for two dessus and bc
    • Laetis cantibus Festiva. Motet de Sainte Anne (1679-80), for dessus, haute-contre, bass and bc
    • Vox Jucunda Ecclesiae. Motet de Saint Augustin (1679-80), for two Sopranos, bass and bc
  • ' Le script de Toulouse ' includes:
    • Tantum ergo sacramentum (1679-80), for two dessus, bass and bc
    • Domine salvum fac regum (1679-80), for dessus, bass and bc
    • Lauda Sion salvatorem, elevation (1679-80), for two dessus and bc
    • Respice in me (1679-80), for haute-contre and bc
    • Salve regina (1679-80), for haute-contre and bc
    • Regina coeli laetare (1679-80), for two dessus and bc
    • Usquequo Domine, (1679-80), for haute-contre and bc
    • Levavi oculos meos Ad to, for bass, two violins and bc
    • Veni, veni, sponsa Christi. Motet pour Ste. Suzanne (1679-80), for soprano, haute-contre and bass, ' Symphonie ' for 2 violins, and bc
  • Leçons de tenebres à 1 et 2 voix (between 1713 and 1717):
    • nr. 1 Incipit Jeremiae Prophetae Lamentation, for soprano and basso continuo
    • nr. 2 Et egressus est a filia, for soprano and b.c.
    • nr. Manum suam misit hostis3, for two Sopranos and bc
  • Exultent powder . Motet de Ste. Suzanne (1679-80), for soprano, haute-contre, bass and bc
  • Ornate aras (1679-80; incomplete), for haute-contre and bc
  • Resonent organa. Motet pour Sainte Cécile (1679-80; incomplete), for two Sopranos, bass, 2 violins and b.c.
  • Salvum me fac Deus (1679-80), for bass, 2 violins, 2 flutes, basse de viole and bc

Secular vocal music[Edit]Edit

Mainly included in the Recueil d'airs sérieux et à boire (1679-1712)

Solo Songs[Edit]Edit

  • Qu'on ne me dise. Air sérieux (1697), for tenor and bc
  • Doux liens de mon coeur. Air sérieux (1701), for soprano and b.c.
  • Zephire, modern and ces lieux (1711), for soprano and b.c.


  • Epitaphe d'un paresseux: Jean e'toit comme s'en alla i'il venu. Air à boire (1706), for soprano, bass and bc
  • A l'ombre d'un moreau. Air sérieux (1711), for 2 Sopranos and bc
  • La pastorelle: Il faut aimer. Air sérieux (1711), for tenor, bass and bc
  • Les Solitaires: Dans l'isle de Cythere. Air sérieux (1711), for soprano, bass and bc
  • Les Pellerines: Au temple de l'amour. Air sérieux (1712), for soprano, bass and bc


  • Trois vestales champetres et trois Poliçons: Quel bruit soudain. Trio and dialogue (1710), for three Sopranos
  • Vaudeville: Faisons du temps. Air sérieux (1712), for two Sopranos, bass and bc
  • La femme entre deux draps. Canon à 3, for three Sopranos
  • A moy! Tout est perdu! Canon à 3, for three Sopranos

Chamber Music[Edit]Edit

  • Concerts royaux (included in the Troisième livre de pièces de clavecin; 1722)
  • Les goûts-réunis ou Nouveaux concerts (1724), containing:
    • 8th concert dans le goût théatral
    • 9th concert intitulé Ritratto dell'Amore
    • 12th concert à 2 ou autres instruments à l'unisson violes
    • 13th concert à 2 instruments à l'unisson
  • Le Parnasse, ou L'apothéose the Corelli, grande sonade and trio (in Les goûts-réunis; 1724)
  • Concert instrumental sous le titre d'Apothéose composé à la mémoire de l'incomparable immortelle Monsieur de Lully (1725)
  • Les nations: sonades et suites de simphonies and trio (1726):
    • La Française (La pucelle);
    • L'Espagnole (La visionnaire);
    • L'imperiale;
    • La Piémontoise (L'astrée)
  • Pièces de violes avec la basse chifrée (1728)
  • La pucelle (ca. 1693; included in Les nations as La Française)
  • La visionnaire (ca. 1693; included in Les nations as L'Espagnole)
  • L'astrée (ca. 1693; included in Les nations as La Piémontoise)
  • La Steinquerque (ca. 1693)
  • La superbe (ca. 1693)
  • La sultane (ca. 1693)

Harpsichord Music[Edit]Edit

  • Pièces de clavecin. Premier livre (1713): ordre 1 to 5
  • L'art de toucher le clavecin, with an allemande and 8 préludes (reviewed in 1716, 1717)
  • Second livre de pièces de clavecin (1716-17): ordre 6-12
  • Troisième livre de pièces de clavecin (1722): ordre 13 to 19
  • Quatrième livre de pièces de clavecin (1730): ordre 20 t/m 27

Organ Music[Edit]Edit

  • Deux Pièces d'orgue consistantes "à l'usage ordinaire des and messes: paroisses ': ' propre pour les religieux et religieuses ' camps the (1690)

Theoretical works[Edit]Edit

  • L'art de toucher le clavecin (reviewed in 1716, 1717)
  • Règle pour l'accompagnement

Selected discography[Edit]Edit

Fully harpsichord work[Edit]Edit

  • There are complete recordings of the four harpsichord books published, performed on historical and/or copies of historical harpsichords by the harpsichordists Kenneth Gilbert (Harmonia mundi), Christophe Rousset (likewise Harmonia mundi), Olivier Beaumont (Erato), Scott Ross (Still), Blandine Verlet (Astrée) and Michael borgstede (Brilliant Classics)
  • Selections from the harpsichord works have been recorded by, among others, Gustav Leonhardt (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi CD 82876 70000 2; Philips 454 470-2 and Philips 420 939-2, with works by Louis and Armand-Louis Couperin) and Alan Curtis (Vox SVBX 5448, 3lp's)


  • The ' Motets composé de l'ordre du Roy ', soloists, conducted by Christophe Rousset (FNAC Music 592244)
  • ' Motets ', soloists conducted by René Jacobs (Harmonia mundi HMA 1901150)

Leçons de Tenebres[Edit]Edit

  • Ensemble conducted by Laurence Boulay (along with Motet pour le Jour de Pâques and the Magnificat Erato 245012-2)
  • Semiario musicale, conducted by Gérard Lesne Ensemble Il (Harmonic Records H/CD 9140)
  • Les Talens Lyriques, conducted by Christophe Rousset (along with Motet pour le Jour de Pâques and the Magnificat Decca 466 776-2)

Les Nations[Edit]Edit

  • Jordi Savall Hesperion XX, conducted (Astrée E 7701 and E 7702)

Concerts royaux[Edit]Edit

  • Les Goûts-réunis, Les talens lyriques, conducted by Christophe Rousset (Decca 458 271-2)
  • Concerts Royaux – Nouveaux Concerts-L'Apothéose the Corelli – L'Apothéose de Lully – La sultane-La superbe – La Steinquerque, c. s. Sigiwald Kuijken (Philips 6 LPs 6747 174; later re-released on 5 cds
  • Le Parnasse ou L'Apothéose the L'apothéose Lulli and the Corelli, version for 2 harpsichords, William Christie and Christophe Rousset (Harmonia mundi HMC 9011269)

Pièces d'orgues[Edit]Edit

  • Marie-Claire Alain, Moucherel-Formentalli-organ of the Cathedral Sainte Cécile in Albi (+ Clérambault, Suite du 2me tonnes; Erato 2292-45460-2)
  • Ton Koopman, Clicquot-organ Houdan (Telefunken-historical Clicquot-Orgeln in Frankreich; 2lp's 6.35415 DX)

Pièces de viole[Edit]Edit

  • Martha van der Velden, gamba, and Glen Wilson, harpsichord (+ 2 concerts royaux; Channel Classics CCs 18398)
  • Jay Bad, gamba, and Skip Sempé, harpsichord (+ other works by Couperin; Deutsche Harmonia Mundi DHM 05472 77315 2)
  • Jordi Savall, Ton Koopman, harpsichord, viol and Ariane Maurette, gamba (Astrée AS1)


  • Anthony, James r. (1997), French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau, Portland, Amadeus Press
  • Beau sant, Philippe (1980), François Couperin, Paris, Fayard
  • Benoit, Marcelle (red.) (1992), Dictionnaire de la musique en France aux XVII et XVIIIe siècles, Paris, Fayard
  • Clark, Jane, Les Folies Françoises in Early Music, vol. 8, no. 2, april 1980, p. 1. 163-169, London, Oxford University Press
  • Clark, Jane and Derek Connon (2002/2011), The Mirror of Human Life. Reflections on François Couperin Pièces de Clavecin, London, Keyword Press
  • Couperin, François (concerned by Anna Linde, 1977), L'Art de toucher le Clavecin, Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel
  • Higginbottom, Edward, ' François Couperin', in French Baroque Masters, The New Grove Composer Biography Series, London, Macmillan Publishers Limited
  • Hofman, Shlomo (1961), L ' œuvre de clavecin de François Couperin le Grand. Étude stylistique (La vie musicale en France sous les rois Bourbons), Paris, Éditions a. & j. Picard & Cie
  • Holman, Peter, An orchestral suite by François Couperin? in Early Music, vol. 14, nr. 1, February 1986, p. 1. 71-78, London, Oxford University Press
  • Kirkpatrick, Ralph, On L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin Couperin re-reading in Early Music, vol. 4, nr. 1, January 1976, p. 1. 3-11, London, Oxford University Press
  • Mellers, Wilfrid (1968), François Couperin and the French Classical Tradition, New York, Dover Publications, Inc.

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