Observations on Couperin de Turin
Marc Roger Normand (Couperin de Turin). Livre de tablature de clavescin de Monsieur de Druent, écrit par Couperin (facsimile edition). Introduction by Davitt Moroney. Manuscrits 39. Geneva: Minkoff, 1998. [88 folios. ISBN 2-8266-0916-5. FS 145 ($87).]
1.1 Every year or two, it seems, a new
source of French harpsichord music surfaces, and the dream of a definitive
catalogue recedes further into the indefinite future.1
Many of these are taken up by Minkoff Reprints: in addition to the one
under review, an important source increasing the known music of Claude
Balbastre by about half appeared last year and a large seventeenth-century
Parisian manuscript now in the library of the Royal Conservatory in Brussels
should be out shortly. There is one in Regensburg that is just beginning
to be studied and I learn from Bruce Gustafson of yet two more, not so
large, one in Cambridge, England, and the other privately held.2
2.1 Every addition to the repertory is welcome, and equally welcome are the variant readings of pieces already known—variants that make increasingly clear how fluid and elusive was the art of seventeenth-century French harpsichord masters. It is rare to find a manuscript version of a piece that resembles the same piece in another source closely enough to suggest that one was copied from the other, and this is true even of pieces that existed in published form at the time the manuscript was written. Here we have new readings of four pieces by Chambonni¸res, two by dAnglebert (one of them a transcription from Lully), and one by Leb¸gue. This last piece provides an attribution for its concordant version, whose author was unknown up to now.3 The most important contribution of this manuscript, however, is a whole new composer for the harpsichord, and a good one. He is represented here by a frustratingly small number of pieces whose fluency and technical security can hardly be accounted for except by the experience of having already written much music now lost to us. The composer was Marc Roger Normand, who copied the manuscript for one Monsieur de Druent. This is the first music by Normand to be discovered.
2.2 He was born in the homeland of the Couperin dynasty, Chaumes-en-Brie, at the very end of 1663, the son of Marc Normand, a tailor, and Elisabeth Couperin, sister of the musicians Louis, Charles II and Fran¨ois I.4 Thus he was first cousin to the great Fran¨ois II, son of Charles II, who was born a little less than five years later. Nothing is known of his life (though much is conjectured in this Minkoff introduction) until January, 1688, when he is documented as harpsichordist in an opera at the ducal court of Savoy at Turin.5 He continued to function in this court until his death on 25 January, 1734, having been appointed harpsichord teacher to the reigning family in 1690, organist to the ducal chapel in 1699, and eventually general director of music. Up to now, he has been known to history only as the relative in the service of the King of Sardinia invoked by Fran¨ois Couperin II in his little lie about the origin of his first string sonata.6 From the time he arrived in Turin and perhaps before, Marc Roger seems to have called himself Couperin. Although documents occasionally give his name as Marco Rog(g)ero Norman(no), they more often have some Italianization of Couperin. It was as Marco Cuoprin, for example, that he was appointed chapel organist. Davitt Moroney argues vigorously in his introduction for the adopted name, fearing that Normand will fall through the cracks in catalogues, carrying his music with it into obscurity: referring to him as Normand will not help his present reputation in any way, and the reasons for calling him Couperin today are the same ones that, three centuries ago, lead [sic] him to use the name.
2.3 Couperin is not, however, the only new composer introduced by this manuscript. Another dynasty is represented: the La Pierres, known mainly as violinists and dancing masters, but skilled composers as well, on the evidence of fourteen (more likely sixteen) pieces here. It was into this family that Marc Roger married (at the age of 63—for the first time?). Finally, a sarabande de Mr Militon is the only piece so far ascribed to this figure, who was probably Pierre Méliton, organist of the Parisian church of St.-Jean-en-Gr¸ve from 1670 until 1682, when paralysis of one of his hands forced him to retire in favor of Michel-Richard Delalande.7
2.4 Finally, in addition to new pieces
and new composers, this manuscript brings doubts about the authorship,
dating, and even the genre of pieces long enshrined in work lists and
monographs, and it injects a new element of uncertainty into accepted
accounts of the Couperin dynasty. There is now another Couperin to consider
when we confront pieces bearing that name without further identification.
But if we attribute pieces in what we take to be Parisian sources to Marc
Roger, then we have to explain how they got to Paris.
3.1 In 1997, the Italian harpsichordist Alessandro Ferrarese came across this manuscript in a private collection in Italy (p. 1) ... It is thought to have been in Italian hands since the early twentieth century and probably originated in Italy. Both the paper and binding appear or seem to be Italian (p. 6). This is as much as we learn of the origin and location. It is possible to piece together an approximate description from scattered remarks in the introduction and the facsimile itself, which is about a centimeter smaller in both dimensions than the original 230 x 180 mm. The facsimile consists of 67 leaves numbered (by the modern publisher) from 1 to 86, the discrepancy arising from the fact that from four to eight empty pages (ruled with staves but empty of music) at the end of each key group were not reproduced. It is not stated whether there are also empty pages after the last group, but examination of the gatherings suggest that the first two folios have been lost (p. 7). Facing leaf 1 recto in the facsimile is a title page. It is also not stated whether the two missing leaves would have preceded or followed the title, or whether there are flyleaves. It is possible that the title is written on the inside of the front cover. It is easy to conclude from the blank pages that the manuscript was planned from the beginning to accommodate pieces in seven keys (d, D, g, G, a, C, and F), but that the copyist did not know in advance how many pages he was going to need for each group. The pieces may have been entered over a period of time. The introduction does not note the peculiar fact, however, that although the music of the different groups as they now exist occupies radically differing amounts of space—from only four pages (g) to forty-four (d)—the number of blank leaves at the end of each remains nearly constant, at two or three, as if the copyist did in fact have a fairly accurate idea in advance of how much space each key group was going to take. A possible explanation for this peculiarity (which depends on the assumption that the foliation of the facsimile is a true representation of the source, and which could be confirmed only by a careful examination of the paper and binding) is that the key groups were copied into separate fascicles which were bound together later, along with extra leaves for expansion in each key.
3.2 The date of c. 1695 given on the
title page of the facsimile is a guess based on a police record of foreigners
in Turin, dated 1704. Here Couperin is listed as having lived since 1692
in the Casa Druent, presumably the palace of Ottavio Provana di Druent.8 The editor suggests that the Monsieur de Druent for whom the manuscript
was written could have been a son of the family, though the contents are
decidedly grown-up and bear none of the usual marks of a teaching anthology.
The introduction does not discuss hands, but to my inexpert eye there
are two for text and three for music to a total of four. The title of
the collection, which states that it was written by Couperin, is in
the same very French-looking hand as the titles of the individual pieces
and the various directions for repeats written on the music, and there
is no reason to doubt that both music and titles were written by Couperin.
Two otherwise empty pages have brief, untitled musical fragments of no
interest in two more hands. Finally, there is a moralistic text in Latin
and Italian written in a calligraphic Italian hand that runs from the
title page over to leaf 1 recto (which is ruled for staves but has no
music). The introduction translates it and discusses it at some length
but draws no conclusions about it.9
4.1 A courante, a sarabande, two minuets, and a pair of airs entitled Entrée des mariniers (almost certainly an arrangement of a ballet dance) are ascribed to Couperin.10 Did Marc Roger compose (as well as copy) them, or did he get them from one of his uncles or his cousin? We must remember that we have no music that we know to be by Charles II or Fran¨ois I to test them against. The editor argues for Marc Rogers authorship on the grounds that all other ascriptions use Monsieur or some other qualifier (see below for the case of the La Pierres), which would be awkward in referring to oneself. There is no reason not to accept his opinion, especially as an ascription to any other Couperin would have nothing but conjecture to support it. These few little pieces are thin pickings upon which to base an evaluation of a new composer, but since the editor makes no attempt to do so and I know of no one else who has, Ill give it a brief try.
4.2 All the broad stylistic parameters are those of the music by French harpsichord composers born in the 1660s: Nicolas Siret, Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre, Fran¨ois Dieupart, Louis Marchand, maybe Gaspard Le Roux, whose birth date is unknown, but not Marc Rogers famous cousin (b. 1668), whose music is too varied and personal to make a useful comparison. Couperin de Turins control of fully tonal, Corellian harmonic organization, comparable to that of Le Roux, places him solidly in advance of his uncle Louis. The first adjective that comes to mind, perhaps, is secure. Nothing about these pieces is awkward, tentative, or indicative of anything but full, professional mastery. His music is not individualistic, there are no surprises, but in the two minuets and the sarabande, at least, there is a flow of ideas that are as fresh-sounding as it is possible to have in such restricted frames. If any one characteristic can be mentioned that sets him slightly apart from the French mainstream, it is in the conduct of his melodies, which are notably more disjunct than is typical in this repertory and may reflect an Italian influence. In the second bar of the simplest of all the pieces, a minuet in D minor on f. 86v, the melody leaps up a fifth and a fourth to the octave in the second bar and is back down where it started two bars later, while its second strain works up slowly stepwise and stays there—nothing startling, but nicely balanced contrast. In the other minuet, in A minor, on f. 58v, the interest is in its lively, rather Purcellian rhythm with many second-beat accents and hemiola effects, all handled so as to assure a remarkable stylistic cohesiveness. The sarabande (84v) is full-textured, expressive, and richly ornamented in the manner of dAnglebert (but without the latters characteristic ornament signs). The brief courante (43v) is well constructed, pleasant, musical, but rather ordinary.
4.3 The pair of ballet airs (50v) is full of energy and shows Couperin to be a fine tunesmith. The first, in fact, is reminiscent of a familiar tune I cant identify (example 1). So far as one can judge from such a small sample, Couperin was one of the best French harpsichord composers of his generation (not, however, to be compared with his intensely original and innovative cousin), and anyone who knows his way around Turin and Savoy would do well to look for more of his music.
4.4 It is possible to mention only a few other pieces. One of the most puzzling (on which the editor does not comment) is the first. This begins as a normal sarabande in two reprises,11 but then comes a single, unrepeated and unrelated twelve-bar strain in sarabande rhythm (Denis Herlin has identified it as all but the first bar and a half of the second strain of the lute courante LImmortelle by Ennemond Gautier), followed by a double of the opening sarabande only. The result is a ternary structure of a type that is unique, to my knowledge. Another is a set of 27 couplets on the Folies tune running to no fewer than 432 bars. Such sets—but never so hypertrophic—are commonplace in sources of this kind, but this one borrows at least one couplet from dAnglebert (see below). The introduction discusses the piece at some length and proposes a compositional plan, which is set forth in a table (pp. 12–13).
4.5 The most substantial (though not the longest) piece in the collection is a chaconne (21v–24v) attributed not to Couperin, but to M. Paul de la Pierre. There were two Pauls de la Pierre at Turin, father and son, both listed as violinists and dancing masters from 1662 and 1670 respectively, and the former also as chief of the string band. Most of the dance airs in the operas and ballets performed there between 1662 and 1690 were of his composition.12 Since neither Paul is known to have been a keyboard player, one may assume that this chaconne is an arrangement. The high tessitura of the top part reinforces this impression, since keyboard chaconnes in this repertory tend to exploit the alto and tenor registers of the instrument. Built on neither a refrain nor a ground bass, it has eight couplets of different lengths (four to nine bars), each with a written-out, varied repeat. Most of the repeats drop the left hand an octave and fill out the textures, making them much louder than the first statements. They do not, however, introduce diminutions. Loudest of all is the last repeat, with its acciaccatura chords (example 2).
4.6 There are thirteen more pieces with attributions to various La Pierres: Mr. or Monsieur de la Pierre, Mr. Paul de la Pierre, Mr. de la Pierre lésné , Mr. de la Pierre le vieux, le vieux La Pierre, and Mr. Paul. No attempt is made in the introduction (or in Bouquet; see note 12) to give a complete account of this family, nor to do more than guess at who wrote what. The vieux La Pierre was probably Paul the father, who had had a brilliant career as actor, dancer, and musician in his native Provence, in Dijon, and in Paris before attaching himself to the court of Savoy in 1662. He arrived in Turin, however, with his violinist brother Guillaume, who for all we know could have been even more vieux, and he produced an indeterminate number of musical children, so that lésné (l’aîné: elder brother) could refer to at least two generations. (His other brother, Joachim, evidently did not end up at Turin.) This manuscript may be the sole repository of music by the La Pierres, at least so far. They deserve to be better known.13
4.7 Five pieces are attributed to Chambonni¸res. One of them, a short, simple sarabande in C major, counts among the most popular pieces of the French baroque harpsichord repertory. It survives without attribution in nine other sources, and in a tenth (Bauyn III, 42v), where it is attributed to Monnard along with a courante. The editor seems to lean toward Monnard on the grounds that the piece is not included among the Chambonni¸res pieces in Bauyn I, which, he says, was clearly intended to be the composers . . . complete works. An odd claim, since fifteen of the pieces that Chambonni¸res published in 1670 (long before Bauyn was copied) are also omitted from these complete works. I agree about Monnard, but for a different reason, namely, that the courante which precedes the sarabande in Bauyn shares with it a motif (three conjunct ascending quarter notes) so prominent in both as to suggest that the two pieces were composed as a thematically related pair—a technique more German than French (and more characteristic of allemande-courante pairs), but by no means unknown in France.14 Two attributions to Monnard outvote one to Chambonni¸res.
4.8 More interesting than this conflict of authorship is the conflict of genre implied by the title of Gigue attached to a piece in C-time (69v)—this one indisputably by Chambonni¸res. In three of the four other sources transmitting this piece it is labeled as an allemande. In the fourth (Oldham), the most authoritative, since there is good reason to believe that this piece was written down by the composer himself, it is entitled Le moutie (elsewhere moutier) et la mariée, without a genre label. The editor sets forth in some detail how the allemande and the gigue overlap and sometimes merge in this repertory, and I shall not rehearse his remarks here except to say that he (and I am inclined to agree with him) seems to lean toward gigue as a better description of Chambonni¸ress piece. I do not think, however, (and the editor does not suggest it) that the rhythm of this piece should, or even could be altered to ternary, as did happen occasionally in lute and harpsichord music when an allemande was to be played as a gigue.
4.9 A final curiosity among the Chambonni¸res pieces is a pair of chaconnes in G major on ff. 45v–46v, with very clear written directions to play through the first one twice, the second time without repeats, go to the second chaconne, then finish with the first couplet of the first. This complex turns out to be a mixture of two independent pieces in different keys. The first chaconne exists in F major in two other sources (Bauyn and Parville). The second chaconne corresponds to the last three four-bar phrases of a chaconne in G major unique to Bauyn. In Couperin of Turin, the third phrase is considerably modified and repeated. I know of no other instance of this kind of combination, especially one involving transposition.
4.10 Two pieces are attributable to dAnglebert,
one an arrangement by him of a chaconne from Lullys Acis et Galatée and the other an original chaconne in C major, no. 7 (f. 14v) in the composers
autograph manuscript, F-Pn: Rés. 89ter. It is curious that Chambonni¸res
should have been scrupulously credited with his pieces but not dAnglebert,
who was a member of the same circle of colleagues that included Chambonni¸res
and the Couperin brothers. The Lully piece is copied with dAngleberts
characteristic ornament signs, but it is in C major rather than D, as
it appears in the composers engraved book of 1689, while Couperins version
of the original chaconne (which has too few ornaments to allow one to
decide whether dAngleberts signs were intended) varies greatly from
the one in dAngleberts own manuscript. The introduction says that five couplets of the Folies are from dAnglebert, but in fact
only one (no. 13) is a close copy, complete with dAngleberts ornament
signs. No. 7 is generally close but differently ornamented, while the
other three use generic figurations that differ too much in details from
dAngleberts to justify ascribing them to his authorship.
5.1 There are five doubles in this collection, none of them attributed. Three of them vary Chambonni¸ress Moutier and gavottes by Hardel and Leb¸gue, the latter two among the most popular pieces of the repertory. They furnish the editor with the occasion to question the authorship of doubles to these pieces (and one other) that are attributed to Mr Couperin in Bauyn 1 and 3 and Parville. These have been ascribed unquestioningly to Louis Couperin by editors, including Davitt Moroney himself in his editions of Louis Couperins harpsichord music and Bauyn (Monaco: Oiseau-Lyre, 1985, and Geneva: Minkoff, 1997–8 respectively). Here (p. 14) he revises that opinion and cites the attribution in Parville to Mr. Couprain of a double to a rigaudon from Lullys Acis et Galatée (the rigaudon is included, without a double, in the Turin manuscript, f. 78v) as evidence against Louis Couperins authorship, since Acis dates from 1686, twenty-five years after Couperins death. It is this unlikelihood that leads Moroney to cast doubt upon the authorship of the other doubles attributed to an unspecified Couperin. There are no fewer than four Couperins other than Louis who could have written the doubles in Bauyn (which itself could not have been copied before 1676 and may have originated considerably later): Fran¨ois I, Charles II, Fran¨ois II, and Marc Roger; Moroney suggests Charles or Marc Roger.
5.2 What is lacking from Moroneys arguments—as it is from any writings I know on the subject—is an effort to examine the textures and figurations of these and other doubles with a view to discovering clues to their origin or authorship. Such a study is not possible here; it would make a fine topic for a detailed study.15 For example, the three doubles mentioned above (variations of pieces by Chambonni¸res, Hardel, and Leb¸gue attributed to Couperin in Bauyn and/or Parville) all contain at least one thirty-second note swoop up a whole octave.16 The double of Leb¸gue has it only in Parville (where the piece is notated in values half those of Bauyn); the double of Le Moutier has five of them in both Parville and Bauyn. Aside from its brilliant effect (so many quick notes sound very loud on the harpsichord) this figure is noteworthy because Chambonni¸res himself is on record as having disliked or at least derided it.17 He (d. 1672) could have known and probably did know the playing of Louis (d. 1661), Charles II (d. 1679), and Fran¨ois I (d. 1708), but he could not have known the playing of either Fran¨ois II or Marc-Roger. The unascribed doubles to these three pieces in Marc-Rogers collection have even more swoops than either Bauyn or Parville. The one to the Hardel gavotte is quite clearly the same piece as in the other two manuscripts and like them, has one swoop. But the Moutier one, though similar in many ways, is more complex and brilliant and has a sixth swoop. And the double to Leb¸gues gavotte is completely different from the Bauyn/Parville double and contains two swoops in the left hand (Parvilles; single swoop is in the right hand). Swoops are by no means a commonplace of double writing. Do they tell us anything about the authorship of any of these pieces? Ill leave it to the reader.
5.3 It must have been by virtue of the kind of determined efficiency that is usually reserved for campaign biographies that this manuscript, said to have been discovered only in 1997, was brought to publication in 1998; and one can scarcely imagine what further frenzied industry must have been required to produce a complete recording18 a year later, especially one of this superb quality. The pieces are recorded in an order meant for pleasant and varied listening, and anyone who wants to follow the facsimile will need to consult the folio numbers in the commentary on the individual pieces, pp. 9–13 (English) or 21–25 (French). The booklet is based mainly on the preface to the facsimile, but it adds a short biography of Monsieur de Druent and cites three studies.19 It is a tribute to the consistently high quality of the contents of this source, which belongs to the category termed by Gustafson household manuscripts, that it bears a complete recording; I can think of few others of the kind that would.
1. My dream, at least, for my thesis (18th-century repertory,
1965), for Bruce Gustafsons monumental thematic catalogue (17th-century
repertory, 1977 and 1979), and for our joint catalogue (18th century and
supplements for the 17th, 1990).
2. F-V: Ms. Mus. 264, Livre contenant des
pi¸ces de différent genre dorgue et de clavecin, ed. Denis Herlin,
1999; B-Bc: Ms 27220, ed. David Fuller (in press, so far as I know);
D-Rtt: Inc. IIIc/4; GB-Cu: MS.Add.9565; and a small manuscript
formerly in the collection of the Countess of Chambure, now in that of
3. B-Br: Ms III 926, f 64v: Allemande.
4. On p. 3, the marriage date of Elisabeths
parents Charles I and Marie Andry, is given as 1620. Marcel Thomas, Les
Premiers [not Premier] Couperin dans la Brie (Paris:
Picard, 1978), listed by the editor as one of his biographical sources,
gives 2 February 1620 as the date of the marriage contract (p. 85). I
am indebted to Bruce Gustafson for pointing this out.
5. The reader may be confused by the reference (p. 2)
to the Turin court of Vittorio Amedeo II of Sardinia, Sardinia being
an island 250 miles south of Turin. Victor Amadeus was of course duke
of Savoy, where Turin is, or was before the revision of borders, and simultaneously,
from time to time, king of this and that. He was given Sardinia in 1718
in exchange for Sicily, which he had acquired by the treaty of Utrecht
in 1713. Since the fifteenth century, the dukes of Savoy had also been
styled kings of Cyprus, Jerusalem, and even Armenia.
6. Unsure of the reception this effort in the Italian
style might elicit, Couperin passed it off as the work of a new Italian
composer that his relative had sent him.
7. Who served until 1691. This, at least, is what is
yielded by the documents transcribed on pp. 47 and 50–52 of Notes et
références pour servir à une histoire de Michel-Richard Delalande,
by Marcelle Benoit and others (Paris: Picard, 1957). The Minkoff introduction
disagrees, though no documentation is offered (p. 5): one of his [Delalandes]
pupils, Militon, succeeded him as organist at Saint-Jean in 1685.
8. The report notes that he was unmarried.
9. No comment is offered on the word amandovi (loving
you) written twice between écrit par Couperin and the main text, which
begins Inveni David filium Iesse, fecit sicut aquila que excitans pullus
suos ad volandum, etc.
10. The editor is overcautious in listing the Second
air as being only probably by Couperin; the very title depends for
its meaning on the entrée that precedes it. But more than this,
he seems not to have noticed the very clear C. under the title, written
exactly like the first letter of Couperin heading the entrée.
11. The melody of the first is virtually a transposition
of the first strain of a sarabande in A minor by Louis Couperin, no. 109
in the edition by Moroney (Monaco: Oiseau-Lyre, 1985)—he does not discuss
the resemblance in the introduction under review here. Doubtless other
such resemblances will be found.
12. Marie-Thér¸se Bouquet, Musique et musiciens à Turin, de 1648 à 1775, Turin: Accademia delle scienze and Paris:
Picard, 1969), 20. Note that the la is never capitalized in the manuscript
as it would normally be today. The best account of the elder Paul on my
shelves is by Denise Launay in the old MGG (1960), 8:207f. She did not
know of any music, however, and she did not mention his sons.
13. No connection can be established with the late
seventeenth-century Manuscrit de Mademoiselle La Pierre (Geneva: Minkoff,
1983), although three pieces and a pair occur (in different arrangements)
in both sources. There are also resemblances in some of the couplets
of the Folies in the two sources.
14. See for example the allemande and first courante
by Jacques Hardel (Bauyn III, 34v, 35v; ed. Bruce Gustafson [New York:
The Broude Trust, 1991], 2–4; ed. Denis Herlin [Monaco: Oiseau-Lyre,
1991], 2 and 6).
15. Since writing this I learn that Stuart Cheney is
engaged in a study in precisely this area.
16. This belongs to a class of ornaments called tirata,
tirade, coulade, or in English, run, but I am sticking to my invented
term here as a reminder that I am discussing only a run up a full octave.
17. Lettre de Mr Le Gallois à Mademoiselle Regnault
de Solier touchant la musique (Paris: Michallet, 1680; repr. Geneva:
Minkoff, 1984), 78; reproduced in the original and in translation in Moroneys
edition of Louis Couperins harpsichord pieces (Monaco: Oiseau-Lyre, 1985),
39 and 41. Le Gallois is preaching against empty brilliance and setting
up Chambonni¸res as his ideal. He singles out these swoops (without mentioning
note values) and says that Chambonni¸res called this effect chaudronnier: boilermaker or tinsmith.
18. Marc Roger Normand Couperin, Livre de Tablature
de Clavescin, Davitt Moroney, harpsichord. (Hyperion, CDA67164). Recorded
29 July – 1 August, 1999.
19. Elisa Gribaudi Rossi, Cascine e ville della
pianura torinese (Turin: Le bouquiniste, 1970); Christina Mossetti, Un committente della nobilità di corte: Ottavio Provana de Druent, Torino
1675–1699, Strategie e conflitti del barocco (Turin: Cassa di risparmio
di Torino, 1993); Mossetti, Committenti e artisti a Torino 1690–1720:
Ottavio Provana di Druent e altri problemi (Università degli studi di
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