Couperin, François


Couperin, François

Concert instrumental sous le titre d’àpothéose de Monsieur de Lully

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François Couperin
(b. Paris, 10 November 1668 – d. Paris, 11 September 1733)

Concert instrumental sous le titre d’àpothéose de Monsieur de Lully

François Couperin, known as “Le Grand,” or “The Great” to differentiate him from the others in his renowned musical family, was a composer and harpsichordist, born in Paris. Concert instrumental sous le titre d’àpothéose de Monsieur de Lully is a series of three trio sonatas for two violins and continuo dedicated to Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). Lully was one of the most prominent composers of French opera during the seventeenth century and one whose works had a wide reach within France; one might even argue that he was the most important French composer of the seventeenth century. The piece was composed in 1725, well after Lully’s death, and is representative of Couperin’s late style.

Apart from being a memorial piece for Lully, Couperin makes a statement here about one of the most prominent debates of the day: the superiority of French musical style over Italian musical style. Couperin’s statement is not only confined to words; he also composes each of the pieces thirteen movements clearly in one of the two styles. The first seven movements are clearly in the French style, with dance-like melodies and refined ornamentation, while the following three are in the Italian style, replete with motivic figuration replete with suspensions. Throughout the score, Couperin wrote evocative descriptors at the beginning of each of the thirteen movements, making the work essentially programmatic: Lully at the Elysian Fields playing with the musicianly Shadows; Air for the same performers; Mercury’s flight to the Elysian Fields to warn of Apollo’s descent; Apollo’s descent when he comes to offer Lully his violin and a place on Mount Parnassus; Subterranean noises from Lully’s contemporaries; Laments from the same, for flutes, violins, or very sweet-toned instruments; Lully’s ascent to Parnassus; Welcome—half friendly, half hostile—given to Lully by Corelli and the Italian Muses; The acknowledgement of Lully to Apollo. Couperin also writes music evocative of Lully’s; for example, in the subterranean rumblings movement, one can hear music reminiscent of the dramatic passages in Lully’s operas and for the Elysian Fields, the music expresses the simple and lyrical melodies that are subtly ornamented, illustrating the typical French Baroque musical style.

The eleventh movement is titled “Apollo persuades Lully and Corelli that a fusion of the French and Italian styles form the perfection of music. Test in the form of an overture.” There are two lines of music over a basso continuo: the top line labeled Lully and the elegant French Muses and the middle line labeled, Corelli and the Italian Muses. The twelfth movement, too, tells a story with score descriptors: “Lully, playing the melody and Corelli accompanying him; Corelli playing the melody, in turn, and then Lully accompanies him.” The Muses who accompany the composer play more with the composer rather than accompanying him, making each player more or less equal in their role in the music making. These two pieces form what Couperin calls the first and second airs. Despite being written in score form, Couperin indicates that each composer should play his own line with the continuo accompaniment in alternation such that Corelli will play his music followed by Lully, then alternating once more. It is here in the programmatic work that Couperin indicates that the two composers meet. Each of these piece’s open with the respective composer’s hallmark style—dotted rhythms of the French overture for Lully and the lyrical sonata da chiesa for Corelli. …



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Score Data


Repertoire Explorer


Chamber Music


210 x 297 mm





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