Couperin, François

Couperin, François fräNswäˈ ko͞opərăNˈ [key], 1668–1733, French harpsichordist and composer, called “le Grand” to distinguish him from the other musicians in his family. His harpsichord music, in its charm, delicacy, and graceful ornamentation, represents the culmination of French rococo. He published four books of harpsichord suites (1713–30), which generally consisted of short, highly ornamental pieces, with descriptive titles such as Les Abeilles, Les Papillons, La Voluptueuse, and Le Rossignol en amour. His style of harpsichord playing, formulated in L'Art de toucher de clavecin (1716), influenced the keyboard technique of Bach. Couperin also composed much religious and chamber music and works for the organ. He was organist (1685–1733) at St. Gervais, Paris, a position held by members of the Couperin family from c.1650 until 1826. In 1693, Couperin was chosen by Louis XIV as one of the organists of the royal chapel, and later he was made music master of the royal family and harpsichordist at the royal court. The Couperin line of musicians had begun with three brothers—Louis (c.1626–1661), an organist, violinist, and composer of harpsichord suites, which are characterized by a vigorous, frequently dissonant style; François (c.1631–c.1710), a harpsichordist and violinist; and Charles (1638–79), an organist, the father of Couperin le Grand. The line extended to the great-grandsons of François, the second brother Pierre Louis (1755–89) and François Gervais (1759–1826), who were organists at St. Gervais.

See biography by P. Brunold (1949).

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