|The titles of François Couperinís harpsichord pieces have puzzled generations of players and listeners. Many refer to theatrical spectacles; others are portraits, sympathetic or satirical, of characters in the composerís circlecourtiers, aristocrats, musicians, actors and actresses.
This book opens a door into Couperinís world. Jane Clark introduces us to some of the characters that inhabit the Pièces de Clavecin, whose lives, sometimes dramatic and even scandalous, are illustrated by quotations from contemporary letters, songs and satirical epigrams. Derek Connon explores the literary and theatrical world in which the composer moved, particularly the rival French and Italian Comédies, the latter with its links to the improvised Commedia dell Arte. The heart of the book is an analytic catalogue of the individual movements from all 27 Ordres, explaining what is known about the meaning of each title. Even to the composers contemporaries, not every reference was transparent: where mysteries remain, alternative possible explanations are presented here.
Following its first appearance in 2002, The Mirror of Human Life has become a standard reference source for anyone interested in Couperins music. A revised and illustrated edition was issued by Keyword in 2011, and Japanese and Polish translations have appeared (2012 and 2014 respectively). This third edition incorporates new facts that have emerged since, particularly about Couperins attitude to the court of Louis XIV as it had become under the influence of the pious Mme de Maintenon, and the composers links with the exiled Stuart court at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Jane Clark is well-known as a harpsichord recitalist and music historian; her research into the music of François Couperin has received international recognition.
Derek Connon is Emeritus Professor of French at Swansea University. He has published a number of articles on French theatre from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, as well as an anthology of works from the early opéra-comique of the Parisian Fairs.