Francois Couperin

(1668 - 1733)

French 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 organist of St. Gervais, succeeded Thomelin as organist of Royal chapel, with the title 'organiste du Roi'. 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 composed what he called 'concerts'. These are in the form of suites and may have been intented for the harpsichord, of which he he was a virtuoso, but were probably performed on violin, viol, oboe, bassoon, and harpsichord.

Couperin was greatly influenced by Corelli and introduced into France the Italian's trio-sonata form, himself publishing in 1726 Les Nations, a set of 4 suites for 2 violins and harpsichord. Also composed 'grand trio sonata' sub-titled Le Parnasse, ou l'Apothéose de Corelli. In 1716, published famous book L'Art de toucher le clavecin, containing instructions for fingering, methods of touch, and execution of agréments (ornamentation) in performing harpsichord pieces. This had strong influence on Bach. His 4 published volumes of harpsichord works contain over 230 pieces which proclaim him a supreme master of the keyboard. 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 edition of Couperin's harpsichord music was prepared by Brahms and Chrysander, 1871-88. Ravel composed a 20th century tribute to him in Le tombeau de Couperin (1914-17).
Principle works:

Chamber Music: Quatre Concerts Royaux (1722); Les Gouts-Reunis ou Nouveaux Concerts (10 concerts including the 'Corelli' Grand Trio, 1724); Les Nations (4 Ordres for 2 strings and harpsichord, 1726); Concert instrumental ('in memory of the immortal Lully', 1725).

Harpsichord: Pieces de Clavecin, Book 1 (5 Ordres, 1713), Book 2 (7 Ordres, 1717), Book 3 (7 Ordres, 1722), Book 4 (8 Ordres, 1730).

Organ: 42 Pieces d'orgue consistantes en deux Messes (1690). Also songs and religious works. Read more on Wikipedia.