Francois Couperin - Biography

Francois Couperin 
1668, Paris
1733, Paris
French composer, harpsichordist and organist.

Francois Couperin Biography

François Couperin (born Paris November 10, 1668 – September 12, 1733 in Paris) was an esteemed French composer in the Baroque style.

He was also known as 'Couperin le Grand' i.e. the Great, to distinguish him from the other talented members of the Couperin family, due to his immense virtuosity on the organ and the harpsichord.

Couperin was first taught by his father and in 1685 became organist at Saint Gervais, Paris, a post he passed on to his cousin Nicolas Couperin. Other members of the family would hold the same position in later years. In 1717, Couperin became the court organist and composer, and gave weekly 'concerts' for King Louis XIV. Many of these 'concerts', as the titles read, were in the form of suites for violin, viol, oboe, bassoon, and harpsichord of which he was a virtuoso player.

His four volumes of harpsichord music contain over 230 individual pieces, which can be played on solo harpsichord or performed as small chamber works. These greatly influenced J.S. Bach and then much later Richard Strauss, as well as Maurice Ravel who memorialized him with Le Tombeau de Couperin (French for 'The Tomb of Couperin').

His most famous book, L'Art de toucher le clavecin (published in 1716), contained executions for fingerings, touch, ornamentation and other features of keyboard technique. It is said to have had a great influence on J.S. Bach.

Many of Couperin's keyboard pieces have evocative picturesque titles and express a mood through key choices, adventurous harmonies and (resolved) discords. These features attracted Richard Strauss, who orchestrated some of them.

Couperin acknowledged his debt to Corelli, whose trio sonata form Couperin introduced to French music. The title of Couperin's grand trio sonata, by which it is best known, is 'The Apotheosis of Corelli' ('l'Apothéose de Corelli'). He tried to mix Italian and French styles in a set of pieces he gave the title les Goûts réunis (the united tastes).

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