Couperin: Pièces d’Orgue

François Couperin (1668-1733)
Pièces d’Orgue
Ed. Jon Baxendale
184 pages • ISMN: 979-0-2612-4441-1 • Hardback
Cantando Musikkforlag AS.  C4441

Piéces d'Orgue

François Couperin is one of those composers that is well-known to organists, although many of them will not know much about his non-organ compositions. He is also known to many non-organist music lovers, although many of them will not know much about his organ music. Like many organist-composers, Couperin’s organ works were published very early in his musical career, before his move into court circles and a compositional career mostly devoted to harpsichord, chamber and sacred vocal music. His father, Charles, was organist at the church of Saint-Gervais in Paris, just north of the Île de la Cité and the river Seine, where he had succeeded his brother Louis, the founder of the Couperin musical dynasty and a distinguished composer and performer. Charles died when François was about 11, specifying François as his successor. As Jon Baxendale discusses in his excellent Background Notes, this was the result of the practice of survivance, where an organist was able to specify his own successor, leading to such ‘family business’ situations. In the case of the Couperin family, the role remained in the family well into the 19th-century. François formally succeeded to the post when he reached the age of 18, the intervening years being taken up by increasingly intense training for his forthcoming role, during which he was paid a proportion of the stipend by the church authorities.

François Couperin was born 10 November 1668, and this 350th anniversary year is an apt moment for a new critical edition of his Pieces d’orgue. This collection of liturgical organ works dates from 1690, when he was 22. It consists of two Mass settings, with examples of the organ pieces that would have been played during the Latin Mass, most of them to be played in alternatim with the choir. One setting is intended for use in parish churches (à l’usage ordinaire des Paroisses Pour les Fêtes Solemnelles), the second for convents or abbey churches (Convents de Religieux et Religieuses). The latter setting is less complex than the first, and was written for a smaller organ, an indication that musical standards would have been higher in the parish churches, with a professional organist, than in the convents where the organ was played by one of the inmates.  Continue reading

François Couperin 350th Anniversary Concert

Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich
14 Gallery Rd, London SE21 7AD

Sunday 8 July 2018, 7.45 – 8.30

Guirlandes Alleluiatiques
François Couperin 350th Anniversary Concert

Andrew Benson-Wilson

Extracts from François Couperin’s Messe pour les Couvents, contrasted with the final cycle of Charles Tournemire’s L’Orgue Mystique, ending with the extraordinary
Fantaisie sur le Te Deum et Guirlandes Alleluiatiques.

Played on the 1760 England / 2009 William Drake organ.

Christ’s Chapel is part of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift,
which is next to the Dulwich Art Gallery. Free street parking.
10 minutes walk from West Dulwich station.
Admission free – retiring collection.
Organ details here.

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London Festival of Baroque Music 2018

London Festival of Baroque Music
Treasures of the Grand Siècle
11-19 May 2018

The London Festival of Baroque Music (LFBM) is now in its 35th year. Previously known as the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, it is London’s leading early music festival, not least for the number of non-UK performers that it has traditionally featured. Last year’s change in the management means that the executive director of the festival is now Richard Heason, director of St John’s, Smith Square, the festival’s principal London home. For the 2018 festival, he is joined by a guest artistic director, Sébastien Daucé. They are bringing to London a sizeable chunk of French music, musicians and culture under the title of Treasures of the Grand Siècle. Described as an “immersive exploration” of the music of the French Baroque from the time of the Sun King, Louis XIV and the Palace of Versailles, the festival features some 22 events over 9 days. It is a comparatively rare opportunity in the UK to hear French Baroque music performed by French musicians including, for the latter part of the festival, Sébastien Daucé’s own group, Ensemble Correspondances. Along with several other musicians performing, I first heard Ensemble Correspondances and Sébastien Daucé when I as reviewing at last years Ambronay festival, reviewed here.

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Le coucher du soleil

Le coucher du soleil
A Weekend of Excessively Good Taste. Music of the French Baroque – 1
Instruments of Time and Truth, Edward Higginbottom, Robyn Allegra Parton
Kings Place, 25 November 2016

F Couperin: Sonate: La Pucelle, Première Leçon de Ténèbres, L’apothéose de Corelli;
Jacquet de La Guerre: Pièces de clavecin
Clérambault: Cantate Abraham
Leclair: Violin Sonata in C Major, Op 2/3
Mondonville: Pièces de clavecin avec voix ou violon: In decachordo psalterio, Regina terrae, Benefac Domine;
Rameau: Deuxième concert from Pièces de clavecin en Concert

The Kings Place year-long ‘Baroque Unwrapped’ series of concerts drew close to its end with a ‘A Weekend of Excessively Good Taste’, devoted to music of the French Baroque in a period where bon gout was the watchword. The concert by the Oxford based Instruments of Time and Truth, directed by Edward Higginbottom (an acknowledged expert on French music) looked at the increasing influence of Italian music after the rather musically insular period of the reign of the Sun King.

The concert opened and closed with François Couperin. His first trio sonata, La Pucelle (c1692), was written under an Italian pseudonym. His concluding L’apothéose de Corelli, was his more open attempt to show how the disparate Italian and French styles could, and should, be combined. The programme note quoted several comments from the time expressing the differences between the styles, including a reference to a lady of the Court of Louis XIV fainting with delight or terror at hearing an Italian inspired violinist playing his ‘rapid passages’. Louis XIV’s response to such Italian virtuosity was to invite a simple melody from a French violinist with the comments that ‘That is my taste’.

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Froberger: A Celebration

Froberger: A Celebration
Benjamin Narvey, Adrian Lenthall, Tom Foster

British Clavichord Society
Art Workers Guild, London WC1. 19 November 2016

Image result for frobergerComposers with an eye for future recognition should ideally aim to die around the age of either 25 or 75, thereby gaining an anniversary every 25 years or so. Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-67) died aged 51, which means that he has anniversaries this year and next year, but not again for another 49 years. Hopefully the burst of interest in these two years will carry his name forward, as he is an often overlooked composer. But he was an enormous influence on keyboard composers from the 17th to early 19th  century, not least for spreading the Italian style of his teacher Frescobaldi around Europe, and assimilating various European musical styles into his own compositions, notably from France.

Although only two of his works were published in his lifetime, Froberger’s   Continue reading

French Splendour & Italian Virtuosity

‘French Splendour & Italian Virtuosity in Baroque Music’
Michal Rogalski, oboe, Katarz
yna Kowalik, harpsichord, Kate Conway, cello & viol
Music in New Malden. 9 October 2016

Whatever the success of their performing, academic, or teaching careers, for many musicians one of the most important aspect of their musical life is their involvement in local musical activities, for example, setting up and running local music festivals and events. An example of the latter is the Music in New Malden (MiNM) series of concerts, founded by Jane Booth and John Irving in 2009. Held in New Malden Methodist Church, the annual series of Sunday afternoon concerts feature professional musicians and generally focus on early music and historical performance. Admission is free, but there is a retiring collection for a range of designated charities, so far raising over £9000 for Macmillan Cancer Care, Dementia UK, Home Farm Trust, Princess Alice Hospice, Disasters Emergency Committee, Jessie’s Fund and others.

The 2016/17 series ranges from solo piano to a choir and orchestra. It opened on 9 October with a concert (by Michal Rogalski, oboe, Katarzyna Kowalik, harpsichord, and Kate Conway, cello & viol) comparing French and Italian compositional and performing style in the Baroque era. Attempts to bring these two styles together were the focus of many composers of the period. Continue reading

Divine Noise – Theatrical music for two harpsichords

Divine Noise – Theatrical music for two harpsichords
Menno van Delft, Guillermo Brachetta
Resonus RES10145. 74:26

Rameau: Platée Suite arr Brachetta; F. Couperin: Le Pais du Parnasse; Le Roux: Suite in F

You really do need to like the sound of the harpsichord to appreciate this CD, with its two powerful French harpsichords doing battle with each other and, on occasion, the eardrums. Guillermo Brachetta’s arrangement of pieces from Rameau’s Platée lasts about 50 minutes, and runs the whole gamut of the French Baroque vocal, instrumental and dance style. And it is an extraordinary style, aided by a very clever arrangement and the forthright and imaginative playing by Guillermo Brachetta and his former teacher, Menno van Delft. Continue reading

London Festival of Baroque Music – Day 4/5

‘Women in Baroque Music’
St John’s, Smith Square & Westminster Abbey, 18/19  May 2015

SJSS 2I couldn’t get to the lunchtime concert on day 3 of the festival, but it was given by soprano Rowan Pierce and the young group Medici, under the title of ‘Future Baroque’, with music by Handel, Bach, Royer, Telemann, Corelli and Vivaldi. Unless I have missed something, this was another event that seemed to bypass the festival’s theme, although it did include as its final work Agitata da due venti, a surviving fragment from Vivaldi’s opera L’Adelaide and later also included in his Griselda, composed for the virtuoso soprano Margherite Giacomazzi.

‘Leçons des ténèbres’
Julia Doyle & Grace Davidson, sopranos,
Jonathan Manson, bass viol, Steven Devine, harpsichord, organ & director

The Monday evening concert (St John’s, Smith Square, 18 May) Continue reading