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Download PDF Pièces de clavecin 8th ordre, Rondeau - Harpsichord

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Rameau - Works for Harpsichord / La Poule (reference recording : Kenneth Gilbert)

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“One of the greatest keyboard pieces ever written”—Wilfrid Mellers | Capriccio

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François Couperin

Streams Videos All Posts. Genre Keyboard Classical. Period Baroque. Even the arts were subject to national policy. Another factor was the string guild of musicians, the menestriers, whose strict rules of apprenticeship and accreditation made it difficult for outsiders to enter the musical profession. The central social function performed by music in France was to accompany court dancing and ballet entertainments, and this also tended to channelize creative effort in one particular direction. The central role played by the court in the musical life of France was strengthened through the publication and dissemination of court music by the royal printers — the Ballard family.

Thus, while contemporary Italian composers were revelling in new ways to convey greater intensity and brilliance, those in France were looking at ways to refine their art. Growing up at a time when this process defined the French classical tradition in music, the young Francoise Couperin absorbed its courtly style, its forms and genres with such spontaneity that, before the century was over, he was at the head of a movement which, from its encounter with Italian music, was to transform the French tradition that he had inherited.

Such an arrangement is achieved largely through the unity imposed by the key schemes, each ordre being in one particular key — both in its major and minor versions. Book 2 is undated, but evidence points to as being the likely year of publication. The two remaining books came out in and They thus cover a span of seventeen years, the last of the collections appearing two years before his death in Ornamentation : If in most vocal music of France ornaments were usually indicated by a little cross, the actual choice of ornament being left largely to the discretion of the singer, in harpsichord music, on the other hand, they were more specific, especially in Couperin's pieces.

His irritation that performers were still not following his instructions some six years after that is clearly conveyed in the Preface to his Third Book : "I am always surprised after the care I have taken to indicate the ornaments appropriate to my pieces, about which I have given, separately, a sufficiently clear explanation in a Method under the title The Art of Playing the Harpsichord to hear people who have learned them without following the correct method.

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It is an unpardonable negligence, especially since it is not at the discretion of the players to place such ornaments where they want them. I declare, therefore, that my pieces must be played according to how I have marked them, and that they will ever make a true impression on people of real taste unless played exactly as I have marked them, neither more nor less. His explanations were necessary, not because his ornaments were very different from those in use, but because there was no universal agreement about how they should be notated.


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Jane Clark has penetrated many of the mysteries surrounding the titles and in so doing has linked them very closely to the society in which Couperin moved. But it may be questioned as to whether — at our distance — the titles are truly significant, when it may be recalled that the composer himself had no hesitation in changing the original titles of his early trio sonatas when they were published many years later as Les Nations.

Yet, as Derek Connon points out: "the communicative power of the music is undoubtedly increased by an understanding of the titles, particularly when so many turn out to indicate an ironic stance or a hidden meaning, for, as well as adding an extra musical dimension, they may also clarify the implications of certain aspects of the music. If an understanding of the titles is desirable for the listener, it is surely vital for the performers, since it may well have a significant influence on the way a piece should be played.

This, of course, is certainly true of pictorial and programmatic works which provide clues to interpretation and appreciation.

While their titles no doubt pique our curiosity, it would, however, be a pity to imagine that Couperin's music depends for its effects upon the presence of non-musical elements. Forms : Most of Couperin's harpsichord pieces are in two-part A B form with repeat signs at the end of both sections.


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This two-part structure dominates all but two of the named dance movements: allemande , courante , sarabande , gavotte , gigue , menuet , canaries , passepied , rigaudon , sicilienne etc. However, there are also many movements which owe little to dance tradition.

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Couperin: Complete Works for Harpsichord, Vol. 9 - 21st, 22nd, 23rd & 24th Ordres

The trend away from dance forms can be seen as early as the 4th Ordre which contains no dances so called, even though the final piece, Le Reveil-matin is evidently a gigue. The two dance movements not in the sectionalised A B form are the chaconne and the passacaille passacaglia.

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Thus, as far as French music is concerned, the two terms must be regarded as interchangeable. Thus the majority of harpsichord pieces called chaconne or passacaille feature a certain refrain rondeau with intervening episodes couplets , retaining at the same time the features of the chaconne or passacaille. At first sight, the bass line seems to go beyond the stereotyped patterns typical of the chaconne and passacaille , but in fact Couperin has disguised this through figuration of what is simply a descending chromatic scale segment common to countless ostinato types.