François Couperin

The Couperins were a musically talented dynasty who were the organists of St Gervaise in Paris from 1650 to 1860. The best known of the family is François Couperin, also known as “le Grand”.

On the Classical Music Forums, someone had asked the question whether the other member of the forum were complet(e)ists. My answer to that would be no because I shy away from vocal music for one thing (I should add here, while I’m doing some minor editing of this article, that I do tend to like the sound of medieval and renaissance vocal music), and a lot of Baroque composers were so prolific that it would be difficult to have everything without a.) a lot of repeats, or b.) the expense of buying in­di­vid­ual pieces (the avoidance of which may lower the overall price, but drives you back towards a.).

There are a few exceptions to this such as Couperin, although it’s difficult not to end up with more than one version of various pieces of his harpsichord music. At the time of writing (July 2015), I have almost all of his chamber music, and slightly over half of all his keyboard pieces.

I actually started my association with Couperin with the Concerts Royaux (Nos. 1-4; not the Nouveaux Concerts) by Trio Sonnerie, which I think I requested for my 23rd (?) birthday. I ended up with a second version by the Smithsonian Chamber Players because I thought the album was harpsichord music (in fact, it had a couple of pieces from L’Art de Toucher de Clavecin). It wasn’t such a bad thing because the version by Trio Sonnerie was strangely shrill even in 1988, where the latter was more mellow.

I also have the Nouveaux Concerts, Nos. 5-14, but a recording by Heinz Holliger et al. from 1977 on modern [sic!] instruments. The pitch sounds entirely wrong, and I have to wonder why none of the Baroque chamber ensembles (e.g. The Purcell Quartet, Convivium, Camerata Köln, etc.) have since tackled this collection.

Since then, I’ve added other chamber music (e.g. Les Nations) and keyboard music by turns, but at the time of writing I seem to have hit a point where it may be difficult to acquire the missing ordres without a lot of repeats. Probably I have quite enough as it is.

However, a survey of the ordres I have reveals just how much is missing in part or in whole, but as I said above, it may be difficult to acquire such works without getting other things for the nth time.


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