Irish Times Review @TheDrawingRoom

You can read Michael Dungan’s review of Malcolm Proud’s performance here.

Our first concert of the 2016/2017 season was on a beautiful autumn afternoon in October in 25 Mountjoy Square. Malcolm Proud performed a programme of wonderful French harpsichord music from Couperin and Duphly. Malcolm performed on a harpsichord built in London in 1985 by Christopher Nobbs and is a copy of a harpsichord built in Lyons in 1711 by Pierre Donzelague. It is kindly on loan from John Clark.

Malcolm’s programme and accompanying programme notes are as follows:

François Couperin (1667-1733) 22nd Ordre in D major

Le Trophée
Premier Air pour la suite du Trophée
Le point du jour (Allemande – D’une legereté modérée)
L’Anguille (Légérement)
Le Croc-en-jambe (Gayement)
Menuets croisés
Les Tours de Passe-passe

27th Ordre in B minor

L’Exquise (Allemande)
Les Pavots (Nonchallamment)
Les Chinois
Saillie (Vivement)

Jacques Duphly (1715-1789)

La Victoire (Vivement)
La Felix (Noblement)
La de Belombre (Vivement)

François Couperin’s fourth volume of harpsichord pieces was published in 1730. It is believed that Couperin was a Freemason. By calling his 27 suites ‘Ordres’, the composer could have been making a link with the Three Orders of Architecture, so fundamental to Masonic belief.

The enigmatic titles Couperin gave his character pieces reflect his interest in French theatre. The two opening movements of the 22nd Ordre may denote an ‘amorous’ trophy. ‘Le point du jour’ subtitled ‘Allemande’ perhaps refers to the daybreak after the night of amorous goings-on. ‘L’Anguille’, as well as an eel can also mean a slippery character or something fishy. ’Le Croc-en-jambe’ means to trip someone up in their affairs, a favourite ploy in burlesque plays. In the pair of ’Menuets croisés’ each hand must play on a different manual or keyboard as the two parts cross not merely over but through each other, like two differently coloured threads woven together. ’Les Tours de Passe-passe’ meaning conjuring tricks or general trickery also employs hand crossing but is written to be played on one manual.

Couperin’s last Ordre has only four movements. ‘L’Exquise’ is indeed an exquisite Allemande. ‘Les Pavots’ probably has more to do with the soporific quality of opium than with a vivid display of poppies. ‘Les Chinois’ was the name of a play for which Couperin may have written incidental music and ‘Saillie’ means a joke or jump but also a reproach. Couperin may have felt reproachful towards other French composers of his time who were more popular than he despite having less musical talent.

Jacques Duphly belonged to a later generation of French composers; he died on the 15th July 1789, the day after the storming of the Bastille. The titles of his pieces are less enigmatic than those of Couperin, often being named after people. For example ’La Victoire’ was the the second daughter of Louis XV and ‘La Félix’ was a bass viol player. A certain Camusat de Belombre was deputy to the National Assembly formed in 1789 to deal with France’s financial crisis, but I have been unable to ascertain whether or not he is the subject of Duphly’s piece ‘La de Belombre’.

Malcolm Proud


Malcolm Proud is supported by Music Network’s Music Capital Scheme, funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Music Network is funded by the Arts Council.



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