Monday, July 2, 2018

A Moment with Louis Couperin

I just stumbled across a lovely recording of suites by Louis Couperin (c. 1626 – 29 August 1661). This is Blandine Verlet and I think she is playing on a 1624 Ruckers.

The 17th and 18th century French music, that is, the music of the ancien regime, for some reason I find particularly elegant and expressive. It is both lively and melting, warm and piercing, and with a unique intimacy. I suspect the reasons for this might include that it was composed and performed for a small class of highly refined listeners, the nobility, who were great music lovers and strongly supported talented musicians. Yes, I'm sure there was a lot of competition, back-biting and so on. But it was all on the personal level, not at the industrial levels we have today.

You might find the tuning to be unfamiliar. I'm not sure of the exact temperament she is using, but it is certainly not equal temperament! There are a lot of possible choices, from meantone to Werckmeister III and I can't distinguish them offhand. I'm pretty sure it's not meantone as that would be a lot crunchier!

One thing I particularly like about this music is the rhythmic "feel" of it, the way it rolls over and wanders expressively. It is propulsive without ever having the lead-footed heaviness that seems to plague pop music.

What do you think of this music?


Archilochus said...

It is sublime.

Bryan Townsend said...

Isn't it!

Will Wilkin said...

Listening to a lot of Couperin lately, mostly chamber music for strings and harpsichord. I really like the elegance of that French baroque sound!

Bryan Townsend said...

I'll bet you were listening to François Couperin. This is Louis Couperin, his uncle.

Will Wilkin said...

Doh! I feel so stupid! I'll have to check out the Uncle more closely, though last week when I originally read your article above I did click and listen without realizing it wasn't the more famous Francois, also known for harpsichord music.

Bryan Townsend said...

And then there is Joseph Haydn's lesser-known brother, Michael!