Couperin’s style

BBC Music Magazine - - Composer Of The Month -

Or­na­men­tal There’s an in­tri­cately or­na­men­tal qual­ity to Couperin’s mu­sic, fit­ting for the highly em­bel­lished cham­bers and sa­lons in which it was per­formed. If his trills and mor­dents, ap­pog­giat­uras and trem­ble­ments are fol­lowed to the let­ter (as he in­sisted they should be), his mu­sic quiv­ers and trem­bles, sighs and yearns.

Po­etic Many have re­flected on the po­etic qual­i­ties of Couperin, whose mu­sic has all the im­agery and con­densed ex­pres­siv­ity of po­etry. Pe­riod in­stru­ment spe­cial­ist Jordi Savall de­scribed him as a ‘poet mu­si­cian par ex­cel­lence’ while oth­ers have likened his pièces to tone po­ems – Richard Strauss even or­ches­trated some as such.

Play­ful With a spir­ited bur­lesque style, Couperin sketches af­fec­tion­ate car­i­ca­tures of street per­form­ers (be­low), tum­blers, buf­foons and co­me­di­ans us­ing a mix of pip­ing melodies, plod­ding rhythms, ac­ro­batic dances, lol­lop­ing, mis­placed ac­cents and jar­ring dis­so­nances to sug­gest the grotesque. Wist­ful Couperin’s fre­quent use of yearn­ing sus­pen­sions and dis­so­nances, com­bined with his lan­guorous melodies and self-avowed pref­er­ence for things ‘which touch me, rather than sur­prise me’ all lend a sub­tly wist­ful qual­ity to his mu­sic.

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