b) La Muse victorieuse
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.