Louis couperin harpsichord pieces - modern editions

Yes, but do you not think that adding graces in that way might lead to a corrupt performance? There is very little ornamentation in Bauyn, though Parville isn’t as rich as Curtis would have us believe. The problem is one of adding something that is uncharacteristic of the mid-seventeenth century. The Curtis realisation of the A minor sarabande seems more François Couperin than Louis.

No, I find that a performance cannot be corrupt if both later (Parville) and (scarce, certainly less than what Curtis did) editorial additions are clearly marked with parentheses and brackets. I find that most readers welcome these as a performance guide.
I fully agree with you that Curtis sometimes enriches Parville even more, adding a few ornaments (in other pieces) that should not be there.
However, I disagree that Parville does not represent the style of L. Couperin’s era.
We have already agreed that L. Couperin would write a plain score for his own use, but when they published they added ornaments for the benefit of the amateurs.
Look at the pieces d’Anglebert composed not many years later (he published shortly before his death, but the pieces had been composed throughout his life). They are even more heavily ornamented than F. Couperin.
(Actually it has been observed that from d’Anglebert onwards the amount of ornaments in French Baroque music kept diminishing; F. Couperin ornamented very heavily the First ordre, but much less so later ordres.)

You also write

yet, with minimal changes, Curtis is following Parville, dated c1670: this is four decades before F. Couperin’s first publication.

Le 04/08/2022 10:37, Claudio Di Veroli via The Jackrail écrit :

Not so. Let me reproduce what I wrote without omissions:

OK, you may have written that yesterday, but the day before you wrote
the contrary, that Parville was earlier than Bauyn.

You also wrote you had “quite a few reasons” to prefer HAC, but as yet
have only given one (more ornaments).

Le 02/08/2022 13:15, Claudio Di Veroli via The Jackrail écrit :

Come on, Dennis and Jon! Aren’t you trying to show that I am wrong at all costs?
After all, we agree on most of the points under discussion!
There is only one point where we disagree, and I wrote it loud and clear: I like the suggestion of later ornaments between parentheses/brackets, and I am in good company: see for example well-reviewed Henle and Bärenreiter Bach editions.
Again, let’s agree to disagree and move on to discuss other details of this fascinating music.

On reflection, I am not sure that the pieces in either were copied from a single source. In nos. 90 (Passacaille) and 112 (Courante), noteheads with a small curled stem are used. The dances are only found in Bauyn but are inconsistent with the remaining Couperin content. It suggests to me that they were copied from a different source altogether.

Such notation is common to many printed scores and manuscripts of the period and they ensured that chords didn’t become too cluttered with multiple stems. But the inconsistency is troubling. I think I have established that Bauyn was the work of a professional copyist though I am not sure that he knew too much about keyboard music since he often thinks he’s in the bass clef rather than F3. There are also many instances in the preludes where he has underestimated the space he had and has needed to use oblique lines to separate one hand from another. However, he is not likely to have suddenly started using this type of notehead without seeing it in the copy he was reproducing.

Does this suggest a different source? If it does, it could well be that only the common pieces in Bauyn and Parville were from the same family tree (to use an unhelpful analogy). Interestingly, nos 112 and 113 are in D major, but we’ve already had a section of dances in that key and so they are out of place. The only possibility I can think is that these pieces, both peculiar to Bauyn, and that they were unavailable at the time the manuscript was prepared. That suggests a different hypearchetype.

Just a thought that I will play with after lunch.

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I am no expert in Louis Couperin’s harmony, but sincerely from an editorial pont of view I see no reason not to choose A over F in the bass of the prelude.

There is a guidon (or a custos or what you wish to name it) on A, followed by a F note (instead of A). But the guidon is in the baryton clef while the F is (on the following system) in bass clef, thus the guidon and the note are in fact on the same space of the staff. So the guidon is right and the note is wrong, and the genesis of the error is simply explained, while it would be unexplainable the opposite way. If the note was right, how the copyist would have erred with the guidon? Much more simpler to get a wrong note after a clef change, while the brain is still adjusting itself to the new clef.

The error in Bauyn could lead to recognize a filiation of the Parville reading from the Bauyn reading (please note: I am talking about the filiation of the reading, not of the manuscripts themselves).


Well, I didn’t say that Parville’s ornamentation doesn’t match Couperin’s era. Rather, Curtis doesn’t. It seems like a textbook exercise using l’Art de toucher.

That said, I have copies of the Oldham ms pieces and the A minor sarabande is very lavish.

I’ve been writing about this today, oddly, before we went off on this particular tangent and was reminded of Titelouze, who said that he didn’t add ornamentation to the 1623 Hymnes de l’église because there would be too many symbols required. (I think he was window-dressing, actually and Ballard was perhaps not equipped to add even simple ornaments.)

If anything, Parville is under ornamented. There are just four species of ornaments in either manuscript’s dances, though there are seven in the preludes. I have more work to do to see if anything apart from the port de voix can be applied to the dances, though it is possible they indicate right sort of added notes for the harpège.

However, I am not convinced by all of Curtis’s amendments, which seem a little stiff and there are plenty of places where it begs for ornaments, which go out rather plain.

It’s a fascinating project.