Pièces de clavecin: Troisième livre

François Couperin

Pièces de clavecin: Troisième livre

About this work

Like Book 2, François Couperin's Pieces for harpsichord, Book 3 consists of seven orders, which are groupings of pieces usually sharing the same key (major or minor) and the same mood. When the composer fashioned the orders in the First Book, he paid little heed to grouping them according to mood or other characteristics that might unite them, though he gave them likeness of key. But in the three books that followed, he became more focused on mood and breaking with tradition to offer fresher, more innovative music.

The Third Book's seven orders hold 46 pieces, among which are many masterful efforts. More and more, Couperin was turning toward writing character pieces, as with the first piece in the 17th Order, a stately allemande, La superbe ou La Forqueray. The title of the work refers to the talents and person of the virtuoso viol player, Antoine Forqueray, friend of the composer. Les Folies françoises, ou les Dominos (13th Order, No. 4) is one of the longest works in any of the four books, lasting over eight minutes, and is also one of the composer's finest satirical efforts. The piece is a set of deftly-fashioned variations, full of color and invention. Another masterful creation from the Third Book is Les petits moulins à vent (17th Order, No. 2), with its brilliant keyboard writing and effects. Certainly, Couperin demonstrates a grasp of keyboard color and a sense for atmosphere far in advance of the skills of most of his contemporaries.

One notices quite a few rondeaus in this book, including La Linote éfarouchée (14th Order, No. 3), Les Timbres (17th Order, No. 3), and La Muse-Plantine (19th Order, No. 5). But there are fewer identifiable dance characteristics in the music here, unlike in the bountiful First Book.

In sum, the Third Book, though it did not break as sharply with convention as the Second, must rank with it and the Fourth as the finer books in the series.