b) La Misterieuse
Francois Couperin (1668-1733)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Track 22
It is in this mysterious one that we can find a gentle extension of Gregorian Chant. With instrumental writing now established, composers happily, yet cautiously, find new ways to complicate the art of line learned from the good monks. Surprisingly, it is not in the flurry of virtuosity that our Francois advocates complexity. It is in the calm of music intended for contemplation. Keyboard music, like chant, is music that can be accomplished by anyone looking for a way to amuse themselves. And it is with such a solitary musician in mind that Mr. Couperin wrote this once uniquely shaped tune.
The complex line is achieved via a simple formula: one note in the left hand followed by three in the right. Because the left hand notes ground the listener so firmly, the right hand notes are free to explore various possibilities. Sometimes they leap, sometimes they step. Sometimes they are static, sometimes they are melodic. An intelligent keyboard player (alone on a rainy day) may begin to see a myriad of constellations outlined by Couperin with these pitches.
What I like about this picturesque allemande is that it reminds me of a piece written a few years later. Couperin opens this tune in a way similar to one of the movements of J. S. Bach's Italian Concerto
. This is a happy association for me. I love the Italian Concerto
because I first heard it when I was ready to listen to lines.