Five French Baroque Compositions for Organ

Louis Couperin  ~  Sarabande & Chaconne
André Raison  ~  Sanctus & Christe
François Couperin  ~~Passacaille

Complimentary Score available in June 2023


Louis Couperin, akin to his nephew François, was a composer, clavecinist and organist; he was born ca. 1626 in Chaumes and died in Paris in 1661, and was one of several Couperin family members to serve as organist of St. Gervais in Paris. The Sarabande en Canon and Chaconne are drawn from the numerous movements of his suite in F-major for clavecin. In the Chaconne, a generic title is perhaps misleading, as the composition is actually in rondo form, similar to his nephew's passacaille. A recurring eight measure refrain frames and separates each of four interpolated verses, or couplets. As a convenience, the rondeau has been printed out upon each of its appearances, unlike the original abbreviated score in which it appears only once at the beginning. In an improvisatorial spirit characteristic of Baroque practices, a fifth couplet has been provided, following Couperin’s four original ones.

André Raison (b. before 1650, d. Paris, 1719) served as organist for the royal abbey of Ste. Geneviève in Paris (c. 1660 onward), and also for Jacobins de St. Jacques. During his lifetime, Raison published two volumes of music, from which three movements of his Messe du Deuziesme Ton have been extracted and included here. Although not so marked, the brief Sanctus, Gravement, might well be performed in duple― or alla breve―time. The Trio en Passacaille (for the Christe) can be recognized as a source for the first half of the theme of Johann Sebastian Bach's renowned C Minor organ passacaglia and fugue. The Amen features a lively dialogue between contrasting registers of distinctive classic French organ stops and registrations.

François Couperin was born, lived and died in Paris (1668-1733). He was active as a composer, harpsichordist, and organist and wrote extensively for the keyboard. Along with his uncle, Louis, he served in succession as organist at the church of St. Gervais. Named one of four organistes du roi in 1693, he was later appointed maître de clavecin du roi in 1717.  His Passacaille for clavecin, from the Huitième Ordre, is transposed from its original key of B-minor to D-minor in order to facilitate performance on the organ. Structurally it is a rondo in which nine recurrences of the refrain―or in this case rondeau, a repeated four-measure unit―are separated by the interpolation of eight contrasting verses, or couplets. Couperin's passacaille demonstrates all the trademarks of his uncle’s chaconnes, although it is more comprehensive and enterprising in length and  displays bold contrasts with  a  highly mannerized inventiveness.