François Couperin

(1668—1733) French composer, organist, and harpsichordist

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Arcangelo Corelli (1653—1713) Italian violinist and composer



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(b Paris, 1668; d Paris, 1733).

Fr. composer, harpsichordist, and organist, the most distinguished of his family, known as ‘Couperin le Grand’ because of his prowess as an organist. Taught by his father Charles and by Jacques Thomelin. Became org. of St Gervais, Paris, in 1685, holding post until his death. In 1693 succeeded Thomelin as org. of Royal chapel, with the title ‘organiste du Roi’ (Louis XIV). In 1717 became ‘ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du Roi’, acknowledgement of his special position in the court. On almost every Sunday Couperin and colleagues gave chamber concerts for the king, for which he comp. what he called ‘Concerts’. These are in the form of suites and may have been intended for the hpd., of which he was a virtuoso, but were probably perf. on vn., viol, ob., bn., and hpd. (clavecin). Couperin was greatly influenced by Corelli and introduced into Fr. the Italian's trio‐sonata form, himself publishing in 1726 Les Nations, a set of 4 Suites (Ordres) for 2 vn. and hpd. Also comp. ‘grand trio sonata’ sub‐titled Le Parnasse, ou l'Apothéose de Corelli. In 1716 pubd. famous book L'Art de toucher le clavecin, containing instructions for fingering, methods of touch, and execution of agréments (ornamentation) in performing his hpd. pieces. This had strong influence on Bach. His 4 pubd. vols. of hpd. works contain over 230 pieces which proclaim him a supreme master of the kbd. Most have picturesque or descriptive titles and are like miniature tone‐poems. This perhaps is a clue to their appeal to Richard Strauss, who orchestrated several Couperin pieces. First complete edn. of Couperin's hpd. mus. was prepared by Brahms and Chrysander, 1871–88. Ravel comp. a 20th‐cent. tribute to him in Le tombeau de Couperin (1914–17). Prin. works:

chamber music:

Quatre Concerts Royaux


Les Goûts‐Réunis ou Nouveaux Concerts

(10 Concerts incl. the ‘Corelli’ Grand Trio, 1724);

Les Nations

(4 Ordres for 2 str. and hpd. 1726);

Concert instrumental

(‘in memory of the immortal Lully’, 1725).


Pièces de Clavecin

, Book 1 (5 Ordres, 1713), Book 2 (7 Ordres, 1717), Book 3 (7 Ordres, 1722), Book 4 (8 Ordres, 1730).


42 Pièces d'orgue consistantes en deux Messes (1690).

Also songs and religious works.

Subjects: Music.

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