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Couperin: Music for Harpsichord, Vol. 1
Francois Couperin, Laurence Cummings
Couperin: Music for Harpsichord, Vol. 1
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (29) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: Francois Couperin, Laurence Cummings
Title: Couperin: Music for Harpsichord, Vol. 1
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Naxos
Release Date: 2/4/1997
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Forms & Genres, Concertos, Suites, Historical Periods, Baroque (c.1600-1750)
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 730099596121

CD Reviews

Eeesh | US | 02/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Sorry, I don't really have a whole lot to say about this recording, but the reviewer below's one star was really bugging me. This is a great selection of Couperin's whimsical harpsichord music, delightfully played and thoroughly enjoyable. And about Naxos, it is the only label out there today pursuing a systemic and affordable approach to the recording of classical music and offers home listeners and collectors a chance to listen to beautiful works of music that would never be available from major record labels like Deutsche Grammophon."
Francois Couperin on Naxos
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 04/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This budget-priced recording of harpsichord music by the seventeenth century French composer Francois Couperin (1668 -- 1733) is an outstanding introduction to some little-known music of the French baroque. The performance by harpsichordist Lawrence Cummings, recorded in 1994, has received great critical acclaim. I am pleased that the CD is still getting attention with two recent and justly enthusiastic reviews on this site.

Francois Couperin's harpsichord music departs from that of his predecessors in several ways. While earlier French composers wrote primarily dance pieces, Couperin shifted the focus to short character or genre pieces depicting a specific person, scene or emotion. In addition, the music of earlier French composers for the harpsichord was highly improvisatory, in a form called style brise, derived from music for the lute. It frequently does not use bar lines, relying on the imagination and improvisatory skill of the performer. Francois Couperin changed that by writing out his scores in great detail and in insisting upon a faithful, exact performance of what he wrote.

The eminent scholar of the French baroque period, James Anthony, has aptly described Couperin's harpsichord music as "so elusive, yet so compelling." He wrote:

"[I]n the company of some of Chopin's Mazurkas and Debussy's Preludes, much of Couperin's keyboard music is more a communication between instrument and performer in the intimacy of his music-room than it is between performer on the stage and an unseen audience. It reveals itself only gradually and only after repeated playings. It is wed to its instrument as is no other music."

Couperin's extensive output for the harpsichord is gathered into four large books each of which is subdivided into a section called an "ordre". On this CD, Cummings performs the first ordre of Book One, composed in 1713, consisting of 18 pieces.

The first five pieces are in traditional dance form, but even here Couperin imparts a special character to his miniatures. Thus, the opening Allemande is meant as a portrayal of and high compliment to the Duke of Maine, while the sarabande(no 4), titled "la Magisteuse" is a portrait of Louis XIV in his glory.

The remaining works in the first ordre are all character pieces, many of which derive from vocal music. Some of them are humorous as in "Les Nonetes" portraying a pair of none-too-chaste nuns and "La Bourbonaise", a portrayal of a highly flirtatous and independent woman. Other pieces, such as "Les Sentiments" are highly reflective and melancholy while still others such as "L'Enchantress", "La Pastorale", and "Les Plasirs de Saint Germain en Laye" have the grace and ease of a painting by Watteau. There is much to enjoy here.

The CD concludes with the first and second concerts from Couperin's series "Concerts Royaux". Couperin composed these works for performances at Louis XIV's Sunday musical soirees. They are scored for performance by solo harpsichord or by ensembles. They are performed by Cummings here, with viol and viola da gamba, respectively, added to the final work of each set. These two concert suites return to the use of traditional dance forms. But they are notable because they show Couperin absorbing the style of the Italian baroque into his work. In particular, the second concert includes an "Allemande fugate" and an "air contrefuge" which adopt a fugal style of writing derived from Corelli, a great favorite of Francois Couperin.

This CD will appeal to lovers of the harpsichord and to those listeners who want to explore the beauties of early music.

The quotations in this review are taken from Jamer R. Anthony, "French Baroque Music" revised edition p. 259.

Robin Friedman"
No more to be desired if only enjoyment is first concern
melomanio | 09/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Couperin might have not require too much from his audience.when too many scholarly
expectations from the music aspire you F Couperin could hardly be your favourite. the inscribed movements with names of specific charactors must be intented to
not only inspire the players but audience as well.and the first 2 couantes give the whole program an excellent kick off: full of
nuance,exquisite note touching... which are of quintessence of this kind of baroque charactor pieces.compared to many rigid
pale scholarly distorting is truly among my best choices."