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Louis COUPERIN (1626-1661)
Suite de Pièces in F [5:18]
Suite de Pièces in A [11:41]
Pavane in F sharp minor [6:12]
Suite de Pièces in D [10:01]
Suite de Pièces in A [7:55]
Suite de Pièces in F [12:57]
Suite de Pièces in C [24:35]
Skip Sempé (harpsichord)
rec. 2004, Chapelle de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame de Bon-Secours, Paris
ALPHA 333 [78:42]

As Alpha mines their archives for treasures they have certainly struck gold with this recording. I once owned the original version of this disc (ALPHA 066), which after much praise on my behalf a friend borrowed, never to be seen again after their sad death. So I am more than happy to welcome this old friend back in to my collection.

The Couperin family has sometimes been referred to as the French Bachs. They were important musical figures throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and played a significant role in the development of French music. Louis, although not the first musical member of the family, is regarded as the first to make a significant contribution to music in France. He was born in Chaumes-en-Brie around 1626, and with the assistance of Jaques Champion de Chamonnières, the most prominent French musician of the day, he was able to secure a position at the Church of St Gervais in Paris as well as a position as a musician at the court of Louis XIV in around 1650, where he soon became one of the most prominent composers and performers of the day. Although he died at a relatively early age of 37, he composed about two hundred pieces, none of which were published in his lifetime, with his great influence upon the development of both organ and harpsichord music only coming to light with the discovery of a huge cash of his manuscripts in the second half of the twentieth century.

There are a number of fine recordings of Louis Couperin’s music, although there is a long way to go before he rivals those of his nephew François, not least of these is that by Laurence Cummings on Naxos (8.550922), which offers four Suites but differs largely from the music presented here. There is also the excellent two disc set of the Suites by the doyen of the harpsichord, Christophe Rousset, for Aparte (AP006). Both of these recordings illustrate the best of the composer, how through his efforts and innovations he shaped the Suite into what became the norm. I bought the Rousset due to this present recording no longer being available in its original form, now that it has been reissued it has quickly been elevated to my favourite recording on Louis Couperin’s music. Here we have single disc which acts as the best introduction to the music of this composer, and a performance by Skip Sempé, that is hard to beat by any of the multi disc sets too.

Skip Sempé shows his musicality throughout in this excellent recording, his is a thoughtful and pleasing performance which is aided by the instrument, a modern copy by Bruce Kennedy of a French Instrument, which has been wonderfully captured in the sympathetic acoustic by the engineers. The booklet presents good notes, they have been abridged from Skip Sempé’s original from the 2004 issue, however, these excellent original booklet notes are available in full on the company’s website.

Stuart Sillitoe



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