Born: February 25, 1727; Paris, France
Died: February 2, 1789; Paris, France
A later and lesser member of the illustrious Couperin family of musicians, Armand-Louis Couperin was a highly successful organist, harpsichordist and teacher. As a composer he was a conservative who fashioned less distinctive works than his more adventurous contemporaries. Still, Armand-Louis must be ranked a significant, if minor French composer of his day.
Born in Paris in 1727, Couperin lost his mother before he was two yearsRead more of age, and was raised by his organist/composer father, Nicolas, and a maid. He was taught on the keyboard by his father and probably by other relatives. Collectively, they were likely his teachers in theory and composition, as well.
Armand-Louis was a virtuoso keyboard player by his late-teens and succeeded his father as organist at St. Gervais in Paris upon the latter's death on July 25, 1748. Financially secure in his new post and from inheritance, Couperin soon became active in the realm of composition. His earliest works for keyboard include the charming Pièces de clavecin (1751). In 1752 Couperin married Elisabeth-Antoinette Blanchet, daughter of the wealthy and, without doubt, foremost harpsichord manufacturer in France.
Thereafter, Couperin lived in comfortable, perhaps even lavish circumstances, not least because of his considerable activities as organist. He retained his post at St. Gervais and soon added others, including organist at St. Barthélemy and St. Jean-en-Grève. He thus held several important posts at once, managing as well other duties as teacher, all the while devoting time to composition.
He was aided in his numerous activities by his keyboard-playing wife (who held teaching and organist posts at the Montmartre Abbey) and their three children, all of whom became distinguished musicians, especially Antoinette-Victoire, who was both an acclaimed singer and accomplished organist. From all evidence Couperin was not only an excellent teacher to his children, but a loving father and husband. He was also well-liked by virtually all who worked with him.
In 1773 Couperin produced one of his more important compositions, the Simphonie de clavecins, for two harpsichords. He continued composing right up to the time of his accidental death in 1789. It is somewhat ironic that Couperin's demise was in part due to his busy schedule: hastening from duties at Ste. Chapelle to join his organist son, Pierre-Louis, for services at St. Gervais, he was struck down in a Paris street by a horse-drawn carriage. Read less
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