1 CD - 454 470-2 - (p) 1997


François COUPERIN (1688-1733) Quatrième livre, 21° Ordre

14' 28"

- La reine des cœurs
3' 34"  

- La bondissante
2' 06"

- La Couperin
3' 40"

- La harpée
3' 33"

- La petite pince-sans-rire
1' 35"

Premier livre, 2° Ordre
35' 59"

- Allemande. La laborieuse
4' 43"

- Première courante
2' 09"

- Seconde courante
2' 36"

- Sarabande. La prude
2' 06"

- L'Antonine
1' 24"

- La Charoloise
0' 49"

- La Terpsicore
3' 22"

- La Florentine
2' 05"

- La Garnier
4' 17"

- Les idées heureuses
3' 35"

- La Mimi
1' 47"

- La diligente 2' 37"

- La voluprtueuse 2' 54"

- Les papillons
1' 20"

Troisième Livre, 17° Ordre
14' 26"

- La superbe ou la Forqueray
4' 23"

- Les petits moulins à vent
2' 14"

- Les timbres
2' 49"

- Courante
2' 32"

- Les petites chrémières de Bagnolet
2' 28"

Gustav LEONHARDT, Harpsichord


Luogo e data di registrazione
Doopsgezinde Gemeente, Haarlem (The Netherlands) - Ottobre 1995

Registrazione: live / studio

Artist and reppertoire production

Hein Dekker

Recording producer
Hein Dekker

Balance engineers
Hein Dekker | Ko Witteveen

Recording engineer

Ko Witteveen

Tape editing

Hans Meijer

Art direction

Ton Friesen

Prima Edizione LP

Edizione CD
Philips | LC 0305 | 454 470-2 | 1 CD - durata 64' 53" | (p) 1997 | DDD

Cover Art

Photo by Hans Morren


Character Pieces in a Variety of Styles
“Since hardly anyone has composed in several genres to a greater degree than I myself, I hope that my family will find something in my portfolio to give people a reason to mourn my passing.
With these words the aging Couperin published the fourth and last of his Pièces de clavecin in 1730. These books (the first three of which date from 1713, 1716 and 1722) together contain 27 Ordres of 24 pieces each. In fact no previous composer seems to have left behind a more compendious oeuvre for harpsichord - not even François's uncle Louis Couperin, of whom more than 130 harpsichord pieces are known.
For his time, François Couperin was extraordinarily modern, not only in his stylistic variety and progressive tendencies, but also in the way he addresses the players:
“I am constantly surprised (after the trouble I have taken in indicating the embellishments which are suitable for my pieces, about which I have given an adequately clear explanation elsewhere, in a special manual entitled ‘L'art de toucher le Clavecin‘), to hear people who have learnt them but do not obey them. This is an unpardonable omission, just as it is by no means permitted to use those ornaments which one happens to like. I therefore declare that my pieces must he played in the way I have indicated, and that they will never make a certain impression on people with true taste unless my notation is followed to the letter, without adding or taking away anything." (Prelude to Book III)
Seventeenth-century French harpsichord music consists mostly of dance movements (sometimes stylised). In the eighteenth century these dance pieces were given additional names, for example the allemandc “La laborieuse,“ with which Couperin opened his Second Ordre. Couperin, however, went further, composing character pieces not connected with the dance forms. We can already detect a line of demarcation between the first and second books: the number of pieces designated as dances drops from 30 to below 10. All the same, many “character piecesbetray their origins in dance, whose significance as a model is accentuated not only in French sources but in German ones as well.
With 24 individual pieces, the Second Ordre (Livre I) is the most compendious. Here it becomes evident that the concept of “ordre
is not identical to that of “suite. Couperin understands an “ordre to be a collection of pieces sharing the same keynote (which can be major or minor), not necessarily forming a unity to be performed in its entirety. The key of the Second Ordre is D major/minor. It opens in traditional manner with a slow allemande already shorn of dance-like characteristics: it bears the title “La laborieuse.” which can mean “The Industrious One or “The Laborious One. Also traditional are the two courants and sarabande ("La prude") which follow. "L’Antonine" is one of a number of pieces by Couperin to carry a female name, presumably a dedication. It interrupts the dance sequence, which resumes with a gavotte, minuet, canaries (with double), passepied and rigaudon. "La Charoloise" refers to Mme de Charolois, one of the Duke of Bourbon's daughters, all of whom were Couperin’s pupils. “La Terpsicore” is the muse of dance; however, she is not represented by any specific dance, but by a piece of noble character, almost a stylised idea of antique dance. There follow "La Florentine" and "La Garnier," a homage to Gabriel Garnier, organist at Les Invalides. then the royal chapel.
“Les idées heureuses“ is followed by a portrait of a lady, “La Mimi.
After two character studies. “La diligente and La voluptueuse, the Ordre closes with "Les papillons" (The Butterflies), whose fluttering is depicted in the novel 6/16 tempo.
Ordre No. 17. one of the shortest, is limited to one key, E minor. It begins with “La superhe [the proud one], ou la Forqueray.
a homage to the gamba player Antoine Forqueray (1671/2-I745), who also dedicated a piece to Couperin. It is not known which dedication came first, as Forqueray's works (for gamba and continuo) were not published until after his death, by his son. Two pieces of a lighter character follow: “Les petits moulins à vent” (The Little Windmills) and “Les timbres (The Bells). A courant picks up the serious character of La superhe,” after which “Les petites chrémières de Bagnolet (The Little Milkmaids of Bagnolet [a village outside the gates of Paris]) serves as conclusion.
Ordre No. 21 (Livre IV), like No. 17, is limited to five pieces and is likewise restricted to one key. In “La reine des cœurs“ (The Queen of Hearts) Couperin restricts the 3/8 time signature (by nature fast) with the marking Lentement, et tres tendement: here we already encounter the concept that a time signature determines the character of the performance: a 3/4 or even a 3/2 beat would have had a more ponderous effect. After
La bondissante“ (The One who Hops) comes “La Couperin, in which the composer, over 60 years old, creates a monument to himself in the manner of an allemande marked D'une vivacité modérée. La harpée“ as its name implies, is a piece in the manner of a harp and is characterised by many ties (notes held over the barline or beat), which imitate the limited damping possibilities of the harp. This texture can also be found in the last piece, La petite pince-sans-rire.” which can be roughly translated as The Deadpan.
Klaus Miehling
Translation: James Chater