Louis Couperin

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COMPOSERS: Louis Couperin
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Harpsichord Suite in D; Harpsichord Suite in A minor; Harpsichord Suite in C; Harpsichord Suite in F; Tombeau de M de Blancrocher
PERFORMER: Laurence Cummings (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550922 DDD
The music of Louis Couperin has long been overshadowed by that of his nephew François, known as ‘Couperin le grand’. François was born in 1668, just seven years after Louis had died at the age of 35, and his music is full of the invention and Rococo elegance that epitomise the French Baroque harpsichord at its best. Louis’s music, because it belongs to a slightly earlier period, tends more to formality and grandeur, even in the dance movements that make up his surviving keyboard suites.

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Louis is best known for his Préludes, ingenious blends of the intricate and the fanciful, and for his stately Chaconnes. The most impressive example of the latter is the seven-minute Passacaille in C, though its majesty is given a heavy tread here by Laurence Cummings’s rather ponderous execution. His playing is, for me, a touch too deliberate throughout, and the result is a music that never quite flows or sparkles as it could. Which is a pity, because there are several moments – in the appealing Sarabandes, in the affecting Tombeau de M de Blancrocher – when Louis’s music attains a degree of eloquence to rival that of ‘Couperin le grand’. Graham Lock