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Louis Couperin

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Louis Couperin (c.1626–1661) was a French Baroque composer who made significant contributions to the development of Baroque keyboard music. A skillful harpsichordist, organist, and gambist, he was one of the founders of the French harpsichord school and invented the genre of unmeasured prelude for harpsichord. He and his nephew, François Couperin (François le Grand), were the most renowned members of the Couperin family.

None of Louis Couperin’s works were published during his lifetime. There are three important manuscript sources for his music: the Bauyn manuscript (122 harpsichord pieces, four for organ and five chamber works), the Parville manuscript (five unique harpsichord pieces and fifty also found in Bauyn) and the Oldham manuscript (seventy unique organ pieces, four five-part chamber fantaisies from 1654/55, several dance movements). All three also include works by composers such as Chambonnières or Jean-Henri d’Anglebert, and are important sources on French music of the 17th century. Oldham is the only document which originated more or less during Couperin’s lifetime, Bauyn and Parville both having been created at the end of the 17th century.

Couperin’s works are commonly referred to by numbers used in the princeps Éditions de l’Oiseau-Lyre edition of 1936, based entirely on Bauyn, the only document known at that time.

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