Two volumes covering two-harpsichord Francois Couperin material.

FRANCOIS COUPERIN: Music for Two Harpsichords Vol 1 & 2 – [TrackList follows] – Jochewed Schwarz and Emer Buckley – Toccata Classics TOCC 0203 & 0258, 62:21, 66:03 ****:

Fr. Couperin published two set of chamber works, Concerts Royaux and Les Nations, scored so that they could be performed by whatever instruments were at hand (as many composers did at the time). But the composer said he himself preferred to perform them on two harpsichords. These two albums use selected movements from both works, and in the first volume three short pieces from his Pieces de Clavecin, in the second and third books.

These are strong and vital-sounding performances from both ladies (Schwarz is Israeli and Buckley is Irish), and the series of movements from the Quatrime Ordre of Les Nations amounts to over 22 minutes long. A later series from the Second Ordre totals 29 minutes. Many of these selections are first recordings of these works. And also are very well-recorded. They both play von Nagel harpsichords, the recordings were made in his workshop in Paris and Ms. Schwarz was also the producer. The double-manual instruments are based on 18th-century French originals and have two 8’ registers, a 4’ and a lute stop.

Francois was a loyal supporter of the Sun King, Louis XIV, against the uprising of Parisian citizens. He had many architectural projects at his palace outside Paris, and was also active in the visual arts, literature and the stage as well as music. He was also appointed organist at a church in the center of Paris. He dominated the French music scene, was against the incursion of an interest in the simpler and shorter Italian music. He composed most of his chamber music later in life, from 1690 onwards, when he worked for the Stuart court – teaching and playing harpsichord and organ in court festivities. It was not until 1713 that he given the royal consent to print, publish and sell his music. His main interest was with harpsichord music, and he brought out in the end a four-book collection of 230 pieces of music, in what he called Ordres.


Vol. 1  =

Les Nations, Quatrième Ordre: La Piémontoise (1726)
I Gravement, et rondement – Vivement – Gravement, notes égales et rondement –Vivement, et marqué – Air, Gracieusement –
Second Air – Air, Gracieusement – Gravement, et marqué – Légèrement
II Allemande. Noblement, et sans lenteur
III Courante
IV Seconde Courante. Un peu plus gayëment
V Sarabande. Tendrement
VI Rondeau. Gayëment
VII Gigue. Affectuëusement; quoy-que légérement

Pièces de Clavecin, Second Livre: Sixième Ordre (1717): V Les Baricades Miste?rieuses. Vivement

Concerts Royaux, Premier Concert (1722): VI Menuet en Trio

Pièces de Clavecin, Troisième Livre: Seizième Ordre (1722): VII La Létiville

Les Nations, Second Ordre: L’Espagnole (1726)

I Gravement, et mesuré – Vivement – Affectuëusement – Légèrement – repos –Gayément – repos – Air tendre – Vivement, et marqué (Badinage pour le clavecin, si l’on veut)
II Allemande. Gracieusement
III Courante. Noblement
IV Seconde courante. Un peu plus vivement
V Sarabande. Gravement
VI Gigue Lourée. Modérèment
VII Gavotte. Tendrement, sans lenteur
VIII Rondeau. Affectuëusement
IX Bourée. Gayëment. Double de la Bourée précédente
X Passacaille. Noblement et marqué

Pièces de Clavecin, Troisième Livre: Quatorzième Ordre (1722): VI La Julliet. Gayëment

Concerts Royaux, Troisième Concert (1722): VI Muzette. Naïvement

Vol. 2 =

Concerts Royaux, Quatrieme Concert: No. X Forlane, Rondeau

Les Nations, Premier Ordre: La Francoise:
I Gravement – Gayement – Rondement – Gayement – Gravement
II Allemande. Sans lenteur
III Premiere Courante. Noblement
IV Seconde Courante. Un peu plus viste
V Sarabande. Gravement
VI Gigue. Gayement
VII Chaconne ou Passacaille. Moderement – Vif, et marque
VIII Gavotte
IX Menuet

Pieces de Clavecin – second livre, Neuvieme Ordre: I Allemande a deux Clavecins
troisieme livre, Quinzieme Ordre: IV Musete de Choisi
troisieme livre, Quinzieme Ordre: V Musete de Taverni

Les Nations, Troisieme Ordre: L’Imperiale:
I Gravement – Vivement et marque – Gravement, et marque
II Allemande. Sans lenteur
III Courante
IV Seconde Courante. Plus marquee
V Sarabande. Tendrement
VI Bouree. Gayement
VII Gigue. D’une legerete moderee
VII Rondeau. Gayement
VII Chaconne
VIII Menuet

—John Sunier