Francois Couperin (1668-1733)


01Couperin The Great20120109Donald Macleod introduces Couperin's work.

As a leading figure in the French baroque and a member of a musical dynasty active in France from the 16th to 19th century, it's frustrating and surprising that so little is known about François Couperin. Indisputably François le Grand as he has come to be known, was a valued musician at the court of Louis XIVth. His career falls between two other baroque greats, Lully and Rameau, the other man often credited with being a master of the French harpsichord school. Yet the surviving fragments of his life have been pieced together from a few dry documents. Unlike Lully and Rameau, François Couperin wasn't drawn to the operatic stage, rather he was a successful composer of chamber music, and early in his career, church music, masses and motets, but perhaps his crowning achievement was the production of well over 200 pieces for harpsichord. Published in four volumes of harpsichord works and an influential treatise on the art of playing the harpsichord they form a remarkable testimony to his achievements and offer us a tantalising window into the world of personalities that surrounded this elusive figure.

Donald Macleod and biographer, baroque authority and harpsichordist Olivier Baumont pay a visit to The Cobbe Collection of keyboard instruments at Hatchlands Park in Surrey. There, among a unique collection of composer owned instruments, rests an original Ruckers harpsichord, of the kind greatly favoured in Couperin's age. Across the course of the week, and specially recorded on this historic instrument, Olivier Baumont presents a portrait of Couperin as his contemporaries would have heard him.

02The Art Of Playing The Harpsichord20120110Donald Macleod explores Couperin's famous instruction manual L'art de toucher le clavecin.

Donald Macleod returns to Hatchlands Park in Surrey, the home of the Cobbe Collection of Keyboard Instruments. Today he takes a look at François Couperin's duties at the court of Louis XIVth, and explores the joys of his famous instruction manual L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin with Olivier Baumont playing examples on an original seventeenth century harpsichord.

03The Italian Connection20120111Donald Macleod on Couperin's activities after the death of Louis XIV and harpsichord work.

After the death of Louis XIVth, François Couperin split his time between various freelance activities, including regular duties as organist at the church of Saint-Gervais in Paris and quite possibly the court of the exiled Stuart King at Saint Germaine en Laye. Plus - a look at the composer's second book of harpsichord pieces, in the company of Couperin authority, Olivier Baumont, who plays some examples on an original 17th century harpsichord, part of The Cobbe Collection of Keyboard Instruments, at Hatchlands Park in Surrey.

04The Former Teacher And Master Of Composition20120112Donald Macleod introduces music from Couperin's third book of harpsichord pieces.

At the court of Louis XVth, François Couperin continued to give music lessons to various members of the Royal family and in 1722, the year the royal court moved back to the Palace at Versailles, he produced his third book of harpsichord pieces, reflecting quite a different side to his character. Donald Macleod is joined by Olivier Baumont, who plays some examples from the third book on an original seventeenth century harpischord, part of the Cobbe Collection of Keyboard Instruments.

05 LASTThe Elusive M Couperin20120113Donald Macleod dicusses Couperin's fourth book of harpsichord pieces.

The melancholy which seems to have descended on François Couperin over the last twenty years of his life, is reflected in his brilliant fourth book of harpsichord pieces. Donald Macleod and Olivier Baumont, who plays three contrasting portraits of the musician, attempt to draw a picture of this elusive yet brilliant figure of the French baroque, with examples from Couperin's final publication, specially recorded on a 17th century harpsichord, part of the Cobbe Collection of keyboard instruments, at Hatchlands Park in Surrey.