Music – Francois Couperin

Born 1668 died 1737. Born and died in Paris. The Couperins were a family of musicians (four generations) like their contemporaries, the English Purcells (four generations), the Italian Scarlattis (three generations), and the con-temporary North German Bachs (seven generations).

At twenty-five François became organist of Louis XIV’s private chapel at Versailles, and at twenty-eight, as an additional post, of the Paris church of St. Gervais. The St. Gervais organistship had been held by his father and two of his uncles, and was afterwards held by his nephew, grand-nephew, and great-grand-nephew. The Versailles organistship was held by his daughter after him. (Another daughter was organist of Montbuisson Abbey.) To distinguish François from his crowd of organist relations he has been nicknamed, like his monarch, ` Le Grand’.

Couperin le Grand’s special reputation as a composer rests upon a large quantity of fine Harpsichord Music, and a ` Method ‘ which he wrote for the Harpsichord, L’Art de toucher le Clavecin (r 717). The works of Couperin are concise, neat, picturesque in their titles, and spirituel. They are typically French. So far as the notes go, many are not difficult, and they deserve a more frequent place on the piano of the amateur and the programme of the public pianist. – Bach studied Couperin’s work diligently, and was a good deal influenced by it.

FURTHER READING. The standard work upon the Couperin family is Charles Bouvet’s Les Couperin (Delagrave, Paris, 1919). There is a good short article in Grove, and there are several pages in Jean-Aubry’s Introduction to French Music (Cecil Palmer, 2s. 6d.).

PRINTED MUSIC. Four books of Harpsichord Music, edited by Brahms and Chrysander (Augener, each 6s.) ; small volume of Popular Pieces, edited by Roloff (Augener, 3s.). The standard French edition is that of Louis Diémer, in four books (Durand). .

PIANOLA ROLLS. Les Bergeries; La Fleurie, ou la tendre Nanette; Les Moissonneurs—Rondeau; Passacaille; Les petits moulins a vent (all AEolian and all 65 note).

GRAMOPHONE RECORDS. Arlequin (played on Harpsichord by Mrs. Gordon Woodhouse, H. M. V.) ; Bandoline-Rondeau (Paderewski, H. M. V.); Carillon de Cithère (Paderewski, H. M. V.).