Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Donald Macleod surveys musical portraits of aristocracy and musicians by Francois Couperin.

Donald Macleod surveys musical portraits of aristocracy and musicians by Francois Couperin

Donald Macleod marks 350 years since the birth of Francois Couperin, one of France’s most dazzling musical talents. His illustrious rise to fame began with his appointment as organist at St Gervais in Paris while he was still a teenager, and he went on to serve as a composer and harpsichordist at court of the Sun King, Louis XIV. Known to his contemporaries as ‘Couperin Le Grand’, he is recognised today as the most important French composer of his generation.

Francois Couperin composed a number of musical depictions of his contemporaries and aristocratic patrons. He taught keyboard at the Versailles palace to the Dauphin and six Princes of the Blood. Among his musical portraits of royalty and aristocracy include harpsichord works depicting Madame de Bourbon, and also the Spanish Princess who for a time was the fiancée of Louis XV.

Couperin also created musical portraits of another nature. Not only did he depict in music the composers Arcangelo Corelli, Jean-Baptiste Lully, and also one of himself, but also composed depictions of the Holy Queen, Mary, and the mythological characters of Ariadne and Bacchus.

Quatrieme livre de Pieces de clavecin, Vingt et unieme ordre (La Couperin)
Christophe Rousset, harpsichord

Salve Regina
Paul Agnew, tenor
Les Arts Florissants
William Christie, director

L’Apotheose de Corelli
English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner, director

Second Livre de pieces de clavecin (La Charoloise)
Second Livre de pieces de clavecin (La Princesse de Sens)
Michael Borgstede, harpsichord

Arianne console par Bacchus
Stephane Degout, baritone
Christophe Coin, viol
Laura Monica Pustilnik, lute
Christophe Rousset, harpsichord & director

Producer Luke Whitlock for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • François Couperin

    La Couperin (Pieces de Clavecin, Ordre No. 21)

    Performer: Christophe Rousset.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI : HMC90144546.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI.
    • 10.
  • François Couperin

    Salve Regina

    Singer: Paul Agnew. Ensemble: Les Arts Florissants. Director: William Christie.
    • Virgin 5457202.
    • Virgin.
    • 4.
  • François Couperin

    L'Apotheose de Corelli

    Orchestra: English Baroque Soloists. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • Musicfrance 2450112.
    • Musicfrance.
    • 1.
  • François Couperin

    La Charoloise (Pieces de Clavecin, Ordre No. 2)

    Performer: Michael Borgstede.
    • Brilliant Classics 93082.
    • Brilliant Classics.
    • 31.
  • François Couperin

    La Princesse de Sens (Pieces de Clavecin,Ordre No. 9)

    Performer: Michael Borgstede.
    • Brilliant Classics 93082.
    • Brilliant Classics.
    • 15.
  • François Couperin

    Ariane consolée par Bacchus

    Performer: Christophe Coin. Performer: Laura-Monika Pustilnik. Performer: Christophe Rousset. Singer: Stéphane Degout.
    • APARTE AP130.
    • APARTE.
    • 1.

Broadcast

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.