La sultane

François Couperin

La sultane in D minor

About this work

This work is one of a group of compositions in which Couperin brought the Italian trio sonata to France. Using Corelli's model, the piece takes the form of a sonata da chiesa, a four-movement slow-fast-slow-fast design. The dating of the work is controversial. Some authorities once opted for 1692 on account of its being grouped with four other sonatas, including one celebrating the victory of the Battle of Steinquerque that year. The year 1695 is more commonly accepted, while a minority argues for a dating of 1710. As there are no manuscripts surviving in Couperin's hand, the uncertainty is likely to remain.

The title of the work refers to the wife of the Turkish Sultan, and the elegance and the noble bearing of the opening Grave movement is suitable to that subject. As he usually did in his Italianate works, Couperin continues to use many aspects of the French Baroque style, as in the third-movement aire. The work is scored for two violins and continuo.