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François Couperin

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François Couperin (1668–1733) was a French Baroque composer, organist, and harpsichordist. He was known as “Couperin le Grand” (Couperin the Great) to distinguish him from the other members of the musically talented Couperin family, and because of his immense virtuosity on the organ and the harpsichord.

Born on 10th November 1668 in Paris, Couperin was taught by his father Charles Couperin and by Jacques Thomelin. In 1685 he became the organist at the church Saint-Gervais, Paris, a post he would pass on to his cousin, Nicolas Couperin. Other members of the family held the same position in later years. In 1693 Couperin succeeded his teacher Thomelin as organist at the Chapelle Royale (Royal Chapel) with the title Organiste du Roi (organist to the king).

In 1717 Couperin became the organist and composer to the court with the title “ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du Roi”. With his colleagues, Couperin gave a weekly concert, usually on Sundays. Many of these concerts were in the form of suites for violin, viol, oboe, bassoon, and harpsichord of which he was a virtuoso player.

Couperin acknowledged his debt to the Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli, and introduced Corelli’s trio sonata form to France. Couperin’s grand trio sonata was subtitled “Le Parnasse, ou l’Apothéose de Corelli” (“Parnassus, or the Apotheosis of Corelli”); in it he blended the Italian and French styles of music in a set of pieces which he called “les goûts réunis” (“tastes reunited”).

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