Masters of the Baroque: J.S. Bach and F. Couperin


J.S. Bach (1685-1750): triosonata for organ in C major, BWV 529

J.S. Bach: sonata for violin and continuo in e minor, BWV 1023

J.S. Bach: sonata for flute and continuo in C major, BWV 1033

J.S. Bach: triosonata in G major, BWV 1038

F. Couperin (1668-1733): Les Nations: la Francoise

F. Couperin: Pièces de Viole en mi mineur – excerpts

F. Couperin: Concert Royal no. 4


In 1722 Johann Sebastian Bach finished his first book of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier in Köthen. That same year Francois Couperin published his Concerts Royaux in Paris. This was a highly creative time for these two composers, who were writing works that have gone into musical history as some of the most important compositions of the first half of the eighteenth century. Both composers were influenced by their own national styles, but at the same time each was looking for new musical possibilities.

In this program we aim to show what these masters stood for, and even how they might have been inspired by each other. We know that there was much French influence on the musical practices in Germany in the eighteenth century. Bach himself was very familiar with the French style: he had met French musicians (including the French keyboard player and composer Louis Marchand in 1717) and he copied and used the famous table of ornaments by Jean-Henri d’Anglebert.

A major French influence on Bach was the music of Francois Couperin. Although it is not documented, it is likely that Bach and Couperin corresponded. True or not, Bach certainly knew a few of Couperin’s pièces. He even copied a few pieces for himself and for his wife Anna Magdalena. According to the son of Bach’s pupil Gerber, writing in 1790, Bach loved te music of Couperin and recommended it to his pupils.

Both Bach and Couperin drew on early compositional practices, but at the same time it was their creativity that made them revolutionary, composing music that reflects the vivid cultures of their time. For the Goldfinch Ensemble, it is always a great pleasure and inspiration to perform works by two such masterful composers.





Signora de la Guerre

Sonate en trio I en sol mineur (ms.1695)

Prélude extrait de la suite en ré mineur (Pièces de clavessin, 1687)

Sonate I pour le violon et pour le clavecin / Grave – Presto – Adagio – Presto – Adagio –     

Presto – Aria – Presto/(1707)

Sonate en trio II en sib Majeur (ms.1695)

Sonate en trio IV en do mineur (ms.1695)

Extrait de la tragédie lyrique “Céphale et Procris”

Scène cinquième /première entrée marche,  les pastres, air” les rossignols dès que le  

jour commence”, Bourée,  retour des pastres/ (1693)

Sonate en trio II en ré Majeur (ms.1695)

This program is centered around a manuscript of four trio sonatas, written in 1695 by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre. Sebastien de Brossard, the copyist of the manuscript, wrote in his journal that he found these sonatas “délicieuses” and he copied them together with four other de la Guerre sonatas for violin and continuo. Along with one of his own solo sonatas, and several by Jean Féry Rebel, these are the first examples of sonatas written for a solo instrument with continuo.


Elisabeth Jacquet was considered a child prodigy in the court of Louis XIV, and at five years old became the protegée of Madame de Montespan, the king’s formal mistress. Montespan asked Jacquet to stay with her for three or four years to entertain her and the other members of the court. Jacquet was quite successful in doing so, and in 1684 she married Marin de la Guerre, an organist, and moved with him from Versailles to Paris. In 1732, French critic Titon du Tillet wrote that “the recognition and reputation of Ms. De la Guerre only increased in the big city, and all musicians and educated patrons came with great haste to listen to her playing the harpsichord.”


Signora de la Guerre was a true pioneer of the French sonata, along with Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Brossard, Rebel, and François Couperin. Together they were inspired by the sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli, which reached the entirety of Europe; de la Guerre and her contemporaries managed to nonetheless maintain a decidedly French aesthetic. We can clearly see Italian influences in the fugato, as well as in the expressive and virtuosic lines and the importance of counterpoint between the two trebles. At the same time, the appearance of dance movements in several sonatas, along with the rich and subtle harmony and the soloistic writing for viola da gamba clearly indicate her French heritage.


Our program presents these four trio sonatas, alongside other works of de la Guerre: a sonata for violin and continuo (1707); a selection from Pieces de Clavecin (1687); and an extrait from her tragédie lyrique Céphale et Procris (the first opera by a female composer performed at the Académie Royale de Musique, in 1693).