Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Couperin, the fusion composer

Donald Macleod examines how Couperin introduced Italian flavours to his native French style.

Donald Macleod examines how Couperin introduced Italian flavours to his native French style.

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.

Many of Couperin's contemporaries looked down on the fashionable new musical styles emerging from other countries but Couperin embraced them. The Court of James II was in exile in France and brought with them music from Italy. As early as the 1690s, Francois was exploring Italian possibilities in music and he greatly admired the Trios of Arcangelo Couperin.

In the last decade of his career, Couperin published a collection of works called Les Gouts-Reunis, to bridge the musical divide between the Italian and French styles. He said in the preface that he himself had always admired works of merit without prejudice to the author or their nationality.

Premier livre de Pieces de clavecin, Premier ordre (La Milordine)
Christophe Rousset, harpsichord

Les Nations, Quatrieme Ordre (La Piemontoise)
The Purcell Quartet

Les Gouts-reunis ou Nouveux Concerts (Cinquieme Concert)
Musica Ad Rhenum

Quatrieme livre de Pieces de clavecin, Vingt-troisieme ordre
Christophe Rousset, harpsichord

Producer Luke Whitlock for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • François Couperin

    La Milordine (Pieces de clavecin, ordre No 1)

    Performer: Christophe Rousset.
    • Harmonia Mundi 90145052.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • 6.
  • François Couperin

    La Piémontoise (Les Nations, ordre No 4)

    Ensemble: Purcell Quartet.
    • Chandos CHAN0729.
    • Chandos.
    • 22.
  • François Couperin

    Cinquième concert (Les Goûts réunis)

    Orchestra: Musica ad Rhenum.
    • BRILLIANT : CLASSICS-92178/3.
    • BRILLIANT.
    • 1.
  • François Couperin

    Quatrième livre de pièces de clavecin, ordre No 23

    Performer: Christophe Rousset.
    • Harmonia Mundi 90144546.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • 19.

Broadcast

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

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

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

The production team reflects on 5 of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years

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.