The Saint-Gervais organ: the Couperins

Louis Couperin (1626 ? - 1651)

Few is known about Louis Couperin's life. Born in a family of small landowners of Brie, at Chaumes-en-Brie near Paris, where music was certainly important, as shown by the inventory drawn up after the death of their father, the three brothers, Louis, François and Charles, were "discovered" in 1649 or 1650 by the harpsichordist Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, appointed by King Louis XIV's court. Louis was then twenty three or twenty four years old and was a simple clerk at a lawyer's office in the provinces.

Titon du Tillet, a french historian, tells the story in Le Parnasse François:

« The three Couperin brothers were from Chaumes, a town in the province of Brie, rather close to Chambonnières' estate. They played the violin, and the two elders did very well on the organ. The three brothers with some friends, also playing the violin, decided on Chambonnières' name day to go to his manor and to serenade him: they standed at the door of the room where Chambonnières was having dinner with several guests, all people of wit and having some taste for music. The host was pleasantly surprised, as were all his company, by the fine symphony which was played. Chambonnières, inviting the musicians to come in, first asked them who was the composer of the music they had played: one of them said it was Louis Couperin, whom he introduced. Chambonnières immediately complimented Louis Couperin, and asked him and all his companions to sit down at the table; he displayed great kindness to him, and said that such a man was not meant to stay in the provinces, and that he had to come with him to Paris; that Louis Couperin accepted with pleasure. Chambonnières introduced him in Paris and at court, where he was appraised. »

So Louis Couperin was introduced in the Court by his mentor. Two years later, in 1653 , he was appointed organist to Saint Gervais, then one of the most important Parisian parishes. The King created for him an office as a violist.
This bright and successfull career will be very short: Louis Couperin dies in 1661, at the age of thirty five.

Besides harpsichord works, Louis Couperin wrote numerous organ works; most of them in a manuscript, the Oldham manuscript, which was just published (Editions de l'Oiseau-Lyre).

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