French ornamentation

Yesterday I received an email from someone who shared the same piano teacher when I was an undergraduate. She wrote, "Could you recommend a book on musical ornamentation in Rameau and Couperin?"

I replied:

 

Although quite a few books have been published on this, there's never has been much need to. Both Couperin and Rameau followed D'Anglebert's ornamentation table--and that's the same one that Bach followed.
 
 
Couperin's can be found on a few pages. See p. 19 (i.e., p. 23 in the PDF) here: http://ks.imslp.net/files/imglnks/usimg/2/21/IMSLP302585-PMLP09374-Couperin_-_L'art_de_toucher_le_clavecin_-1716-.pdf
 
 
If the French and 17th-century curlycues are driving you nuts, Alfred publishes a modern edition of Couperin's L'art de toucher le clavecin, and that might be the most instructive for you. (It's cheap, too.) All in all, just remember that what applies to Bach pretty much applies to the French, so if you are doing Bach right (e.g., trills from the upper auxiliary), you should be well on your way.
 
Above all in French music, I suggest slower ornaments with minimal repercussions. No doorbells! For a trill (tremblement), four notes will do, and for a mordent (pincé), three notes will do.
 
Let me know if you have any other questions. This is so second nature to me that it's nice to have to think about it for once!

2 comments

  • Raymond

    Raymond Lomdon

    The links don't work anymore. Is it possible to repost the tables for the ornaments please? Thank you!

    The links don't work anymore. Is it possible to repost the tables for the ornaments please? Thank you!

  • Paul Cienniwa

    Paul Cienniwa

    I've updated the links. Thanks for letting me know that they'd expired.

    I've updated the links. Thanks for letting me know that they'd expired.

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