In contrast with the opulence of the opera-ballet or the Vingt-quatre violons at Versailles, chamber music played a preeminent role in court life. As he aged, Louis XIV was more interested in his private music than in the grands spectacles that he and Lully had designed in earlier years. The extraordinary legacy of 17th-century chamber music introduces us to a deeply moving musical language. It evokes an intimate world that privileges an unprecedented freedom of expression and illuminates the private rather than the public face of the Grand Siècle.
François Couperin was born, like most musicians at that time, into a family of musicians, and led a life blessed with good fortune. He was highly regarded from his youth, was employed gainfully early in life, married into well-to-do aristocracy and was even granted a 20 year publishing privilege by the King in 1715, which brought him more fame and a tiny fortune.
Couperin and his company in the inner circle at Versailles, all ordinaires de la Chambre du Roi were the crème de la crème of court musicians. They were all performer-composers producing music designed for themselves and their colleagues and, of course, for the King’s pleasure.
In these newly designed programme of ordres – Couperin’s designation for his own suites – his compositions are featured as well as those of Marais and Rameau, in sets of character pieces related by key, title and mood or tied together by a story-line.
This is a programme in celebration of the 350th anniversary of Couperin’s birth – and a programme of ordres filled with fantasy, fun and feeling, which even Louis XIV would have much appreciated!