Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Louis Couperin

The Couperin family resembles, in many ways, the Bach family, though on a smaller scale: several generations of Couperins were important figures in the history of French music. Louis Couperin was the uncle to perhaps the best-known member of the Couperin family, François, also known as François le Grand. Louis was the son of Charles Couperin, organist of Chaume, and brother to Charles, also a successful organist and father to François.

Very little is known about the early years of Louis' life, other than that he must have received excellent musical training (probably from Chambonnières), for he became an overnight success when he finally arrived in Paris around 1651. Once in Paris, he secured a job as an organist at St. Gervais and also played treble viol in the royal chapel. He was a well-known and well-respected musician in Paris, and was closely connected to many of the most important musicians in the city.

Aproximately 215 of Couperin's works survive today, although it is very likely that he composed many more. Most of his compositions are works for keyboard, and indeed Couperin is considered one of the greatest French keyboard composers of the seventeenth century. His oeuvre includes a great deal of music for organ, including a number of fugues, as well as music for the harpsichord. Couperin's harpsichord music has generated the most interest over the centuries: comprised largely of short dance pieces -- allemandes, courantes, gigues, sarabandes, etc. -- the harpsichord music is remarkable for its intensity and sudden harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic gestures.

Some scholars have suggested that Couperin was one of the first French harpsichord composers to adopt the new basso continuo style; others have noted that his style changed from medium to medium, so that the violin music, the organ music, and the harpsichord music each reveal a different facet of the same fertile musical imagination.