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Thursday, July 01, 2004
  Vingt-cinquieme ordre b) La Muse victorieuse
Francois Couperin
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Track 24

Mr. Couperin achieved opera without singers. His haiku-style production was aimed at an audience of one. The ideal listener, wearing those funny pants of the eighteenth century, would have been someone familiar with the going-ons of the theater. Francois was appealing to someone who knew what plot lines were in fashion, the pace of dramas, the way singers conversed, and the machinery of the scenes. (Though this miniature production could fit in the budget of even the most impoverished opera house, I would guess Couperin's audience was well-to-do.)

The title of this movement is enough to prepare us to experience a retelling of adversity conquered. Once there, the phrase lengths are just enough irregular to keep the pace quick. The simple contrast in register and the gem-like themes are enough to evolve a small cast of characters. Because the style is light--one might say rococo--even the emotional range flourishes on a small scale.

What I like about this piece is that the themes are so compact. For instance, at the opening, while the keyboard player revels in the ornate sol, la, ti, do, we pass through three enjoyable bass lines. Even in this short amount of time, each of these bass lines has a unique proximity to the tune. More than the tune, it is the relationship of the right and left hands that stays with the listener. More than melodic development, Couperin treats these opening bars and other sections like small building blocks to be duplicated and transposed. 
Great site Issac!
I happened upon your site thru a link at Alex Ross' blog. Send me an email and let me know whats going on. Several bites on the apt., but no takers yet.
Mike Stehlin
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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