Journal Article

‘Souvent dans le plus doux sort’: notes on a newly discovered autograph letter and drinking song by François Couperin

Denis Herlin

in Early Music

Volume 41, issue 3, pages 393-401
Published in print August 2013 | ISSN: 0306-1078
Published online December 2013 | e-ISSN: 1741-7260 | DOI:
‘Souvent dans le plus doux sort’: notes on a newly discovered autograph letter and drinking song by François Couperin

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Until a new letter of François Couperin’s was discovered in a collection of papers that once belonged to the dramatic author Louis Fuzelier, we possessed no document at all—apart from a few signatures—in the hand of the celebrated composer. This letter, in addition to providing a sample of his handwriting, offers the advantage of also including a musical manuscript with the second stanza of a previously unknown drinking song for bass, O Souvent dans le plus doux sort (‘Often in the sweetest circumstances’), no doubt copied for Louis Fuzelier himself. To this document are attached three further parodies of pieces by Couperin, published by Jean-Baptiste Christophe Ballard between 1718 and 1720 in his Recueil d’airs sérieux et à boire, whose texts—because of the conspicuous ways in which they diverge from the printed versions—are probably by Fuzelier. Although the composer’s signature here differs slightly from those we already know from their appearance on various official documents, the musical characteristics of the bass melody, notably its rhythmic nuances, prove that the signature on the letter can be none other than François Couperin’s. This ‘musical letter’, probably written between 1720 and 1724, further demonstrates that the composer, far from being offended by parodies of his music, as one might assume he might have been (from a comment he makes in the preface to his third book of Pièces de clavecin), actually invited them.

Keywords: François Couperin; harpsichord; Ballard; Louis Fuzelier; parodie; drinking song

Journal Article.  4774 words.  Illustrated.

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