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Couperin and the Church of St Gervais

Donald Macleod explores Francois Couperin’s enduring loyalty to his family church.

Donald Macleod explores Francois Couperin’s enduring loyalty to his family church.

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.

The Couperin family were intimately connected to the Church of St Gervais in Paris. When Francois was made organist there, he succeeded his father, Charles, who in turn had inherited the post from his elder brother, Louis. Charles had died when Francois was aged only ten. He and his mother were allowed to stay on in the organist’s house rent free, while he trained to take over his father's position.

Couperin maintained his connection with St Gervais throughout his glittering career at court. He provided a number of works for liturgical use, including organ Masses which were his first works to be published during his lifetime. Donald also features excerpts from Couperin's Tenebrae Lessons, considered pinnacle of his sacred writing. These solemn choral pieces would be performed in services on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Holy Week, while candles lighting the church were gradually extinguished.

Domine salvum fac regem
Jill Feldman, soprano
Gregory Reinhart, baritone
Jaap Ter Linden, bass viol
Davitt Moroney, organ

Messe pour les couvents (Gloria)
Marie-Claire Alain, organ

Troisieme Lecon
Judith Nelson, soprano
Emma Kirkby, soprano
Jane Ryan, viola da gamba
Christopher Hogwood, chamber organ

Les Nations (La Francois)
The Purcell Quartet

Producer Luke Whitlock for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • François Couperin

    Domine salvum fac regem

    Performer: Jaap ter Linden. Performer: Davitt Moroney. Singer: Jill Feldman. Singer: Gregory Reinhart.
    • Harmonia Mundi HM901150.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • 7.
  • François Couperin

    Gloria (Messe pour les couvents)

    Performer: Marie‐Claire Alain.
    • Erato 2292454602.
    • Erato.
    • 16.
  • François Couperin

    Troisième leçon de ténèbres

    Performer: Jane Ryan. Performer: Christopher Hogwood. Singer: Judith Nelson. Singer: Emma Kirkby.
    • L'oiseau-Lyre 432832.
    • L'oiseau-Lyre.
    • 3.
  • François Couperin

    La Françoise (Les Nations)

    Ensemble: Purcell Quartet.
    • CHANDOS : CHAN0684.
    • CHANDOS.
    • 1.

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