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Rubato on François Couperin

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  • Rubato on François Couperin

    Couperin was a great organist, however I do not know of any outstanding organ rendering of his Baricades Mistérieuses (his period spelling), by far my favourite work of his.

    Jean Rondeau (harpsichord) and Thomas Dunford (lute) recently gave us this gem. Of course the heavy use of rubato was probably not anticipated by Couperin, but I applaud the effect on this timeless music. Anyone agrees ?

    __________________________________________________ ________________________
    Viscount Sonus 45, Steinway "O", Roland HP605, William Dowd Ruckers-style Harpsichord.

  • #2
    We might not agree 100% with new interpretations, but they for sure have the power to highlights new or overlooked qualities of old classics. Thanks for sharing!


    • #3

      I was good until I saw the bob & weave maneuvers accompanied by a pained look on the face. That ruined the performance for me.

      That said, would Couperin have used that much rubato in his music? I doubt it, however, I didn't find it objectionable because the manner in which it was performed made it fit, and didn't keep them from playing EXACTLY together. The actual performance of the music was excellent, if not historically accurate, and I would certainly consider purchasing such a recording. Then again, performance practice keeps changing over time when we learn more and more as historical documents are discovered.

      Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
      • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
      • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
      • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos


      • #4
        There have always been fluctuations in tempo, which have varied according to time, location, circumstance.

        An example of "circumstance:" C.P.E. Bach ("Versuch..." i, III, par. 8) suggests that "One can often intentionally commit the most beautiful offences against the beat," when one is a soloist or is working with a small group of accompanying musicians who are intelligent and alert enough to follow. However, the larger the group, and the larger the component of "people of unequal accomplishment," the more "the overall pace of the beat must be precisely maintained." In that situation, he does, however, allow the soloist to take rhythmic liberties, as long as they don't disrupt the steady pulse of the rest of the ensemble.

        This presents the idea of two basic approaches to tempo modification.
        - One allows for the whole ensemble to modify tempo and rhythm, as demonstrated in your video.
        - One keeps the whole rhythm and tempo less flexible. The only fluctuations are allowed within a single part, against a rather rigid backdrop.

        The French are also noted for "notes inegales" which allows for the rhythmic inflection of individual notes, according to generally accepted rules.

        I can't say exactly who used the word "rubato" first, but we can assume that the practice was in use before the word "rubato" was.

        The recording you linked is beautiful. I had accidentally discovered it some time ago.

        There seems to have been a very strict understanding of things like tempo and rhythm as applied to early music. Once we discovered early music, we probably first began either with all the trappings of Romantic interpretation or a strict removal of all romantic approaches, leaving not much more than a dry skeleton of what the original should have sounded like.

        With increased study of Historic Performance Practices, we are finding that beautiful middle-way, as demonstrated by the video.