François Couperin was the most illustrious member of a dynasty of musicians comparable to that of the Bach family. There is every reason to believe that his name "Couperin the Great", first found in writing in 1780, had already been bestowed upon him during his lifetime to distinguish him from the other musicians in his family. In addition to his duties as the King's organist at Versailles, Couperin taught the harpsichord to many students from the royal family and the ranks of the nobility and, at the turn of the century, he was as active a composer as he was a performer. His work for harpsichord represents the most prominent part of his musical production with his pedagogical work L'Art de toucher le clavecin, or “The Art of Playing the Harpsichord” in English. The work was published in 1716 and deals with ornamentation, fingering, the general position of the body, – particularly focusing on the wrists - the touch, the character of the instrument, and so on. Also from this fruitful period we find his twenty-seven "orders" - a term he used to refer to a group of pieces with similar tonalities, halfway between a suite and an anthology. The work is divided into four volumes, published between 1713 and 1730. He develops a world of poetic fantasy that takes on the form of simple dance movements, portraits, "character pieces", pastoral paintings or theatrical miniatures. Here the Swedish harpsichordist Carole Cerasi offers us the complete works, spread over ten albums including L'Art de toucher le clavecin and the four Books, which she distributes over six different harpsichords.
The Fourth Book was published in 1730, when the composer was sixty-two years old and his health was deteriorating. He stated in his preface, "as my health is getting worse from day to day, my friends have advised me to stop working and I have not written any major works since". It is composed of eight orders, but it should be noted that these sequences become shorter and shorter, with only four or five movements in some of them – miniscule if we compare them, for example, to the First Order from Book One which had about twenty! To bid farewell to the life and music of the great Couperin, Carole Cerasi selected a French instrument by Antoine Vater from 1738 - around the same time as the publication of his final Book, which covers the eighth, ninth and tenth (last) volumes of this complete work. © SM/Qobuz