- Couperin, François
Cou·pe·rin (ko͞o-pə-răɴʹ, ko͞op-răɴʹ), François. 1668-1733.
French composer who was court organist at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV.
* * *born Nov. 10, 1668, Paris, Francedied Sept. 12, 1733, ParisFrench composer, harpsichordist, and organist.At age 17 he succeeded his father as organist at the important church of St. Gervais and kept the post for some 50 years. He was later also appointed organist and harpsichordist at the court of Louis XIV. Couperin is best known for four books of harpsichord pieces containing some 220 elegant, vivacious, and richly ornamented works (Pièces de clavecin, 1713–30). His other works include a collection of more than 40 organ compositions (Pièces d'orgue, 1709); much sacred vocal music (including the Leçons de ténèbres, с 1715); and several sets of chamber music (including the Concerts royaux, 1722). His Art of Playing the Harpsichord (1716) is the most valuable instrumental treatise of its time. He was the foremost French composer of his generation. His uncle Louis Couperin (1626–61), also organist at St. Gervais, composed more than 200 keyboard works.
* * *▪ French composer [1668-1733]byname Couperin le Grand (“the Great”)born Nov. 10, 1668, Paris, Francedied Sept. 11, 1733, ParisFrench composer and harpsichordist, the most renowned of the Couperin dynasty of 17th- and 18th-century musicians. He was the nephew of Louis Couperin.Although François Couperin was only 10 when his father, Charles Couperin, died, the wardens of the Church of Saint-Gervais in Paris reserved his father's office of organist for him until he was 18. The boy took over the post before his 18th birthday and in 1693 became one of the four organists of the royal chapel. One honour followed another: harpsichord teacher to the royal children (1694) and the survivance (right to succeed) of Jean-Henri d'Anglebert as court harpsichordist (1717). By 1723 Couperin's health obliged him to bestow the survivance at Saint-Gervais upon his cousin Nicolas, and in 1730 the d'Anglebert survivance went to his daughter Marguerite-Antoinette.Like his uncle Louis, François is known above all for his harpsichord music. Between 1713 and 1730 he published four books of suites (ordres) for harpsichord. The movements of these suites have highly ornamented melodies and complex accompaniments, with frequent dialogues between treble and bass. Some of Couperin's more than 200 harpsichord pieces are frankly programmatic. Couperin also wrote notable chamber music, including trio sonatas (for harpsichord and two violins) and the Concerts royaux (c. 1714–15), which he composed for the king's Sunday evening entertainments. He also wrote motets and other church music. His last and greatest liturgical work, the Leçons de ténèbres (c. 1715), brings to the linear subtlety of the French vocal style and the pathos of Italian harmony a quality of mysticism that has no parallel in the French or Italian music of the period. J.S. Bach (Bach, Johann Sebastian) knew Couperin's work and copied it.Additional ReadingMaurice Cauchie, Thematic Index of the Works of François Couperin (1949, reprinted 1976); Wilfrid Mellers, François Couperin and the French Classical Tradition, new rev. ed. (1987); Philippe Beaussant, François Couperin (1990); David Tunley, François Couperin and “The Perfection of Music” (2004).
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