Couperin -  Pièces a deux Violes 



On two historical violas da gamba and in the best baroque tradition, Myrna Herzog and Giomar Sthel perform François Couperin's extraordinary music from his harpsichord works - the Pièces de Clavecin - as concerts for 2 viols, unraveling a new magical world.

François Couperin, the Great ( 1668-1733) was one of the most important French composers of all times, enjoying during his life the prestige of a national figure. Following 18th century French tradition, Myrna Herzog and Giomar Sthel chose from his wonderful harpsichord works, pieces idiomatic for 2 viols, making the necessary adaptations, as Couperin himself prescribed in the preface to the third book of Pièces de Clavecin (1722).

Those pieces encompass several musical genres: preludes, French overtures (La Ténebreuse), dance movements typical of suites and character pieces with evocative titles (Le Tic-Toc-Choc, Les Sylvains, Les Satires), descriptive (The Carrillon, L'Anguille), enigmatic (Les Barricades Mistérieuses), musical portraits (La Couperin, La Mézangère).

Herzog and Sthel perform on two historical viols, an anonymous German c.1730 and the other by Andrea Castagnery 1744.

The two Brazilian-born viol players dedicate this recording to Brazilian harpsichordist Roberto de Regina, a pioneer in the understanding and interpretation of Couperin ‘s subtle music.

“J'avoüeray de bonne foy, que j'ayme beaucoup mieux ce qui me touche, que ce qui me surprend (I will admit to good faith that I like what moves me much better than what surprises me.)" François Couperin, preface to the First Book of Harpsichord Pieces, 1713.


PHOENIX FotoAndresLacko light

 Between 1713 and 1730, François Couperin published four Livres—assembling 240 harpsichord pieces of various styles and genres grouped according to their keys into 27 ordres , so that within each ordre one could find a number of examples of the popular dances of the time, leaving to the performer the task to choose his favorite ones in the organization of a proper suite. In our program we also organized the pieces by tonalities, but the resulting suites follow the normal proximity relations of tonic/dominant or minor/major relative.

Couperin expected instruments other than the harpsichord to play his pièces, In the preface to the third book, Couperin speaks of what he calls “pièces-croisées”, to be played by two harpsichords, or by one - playing the lower line an octave down. And he says: “Pieces of this kind, actually, will be adequate for two flutes or oboes, as well as for two violins or two viols, and other unisson instruments; it is evident that those who will perform them will adapt them to their instruments: On trouvera dans ce 3me livre des piéces que je nomme Piéces-croisées . On se souviendra que dans le Second, page 62, il y en a une de cette espéce, qui a pour titre Les bagatelles; c’est précisément ce que j’apelle Piéce-croisée. Ainsi celles qui porteront ce même titre devront être jouées sur deux Claviers, dont l’un soit repoussé ou retiré. Ceux qui n’auront qu’un Clavecin à un Clavier, ou êpinéte, joueront le dessus comme il est marqué et la Basse une octave plus bas; et lorsque la Basse ne poura être portée plus bas, il faudra porter le dessus une Octave plus haut. Ces sortes de piéces, d’ailleurs, seront propres à deux Flutes ou Hautbois, ainsy que pour deux Violons, deux Violes, et autres instrumens à l’unisson; bien entendu que ceux qui les exécuteront les métront à la portée des leurs.


About some of the most intriguing pieces: Les Baricades Mistérieuses is indeed mysterious. With its syncopations and suspensions, some believe it hints at the stiff starched petticoats, used to arm the skirts that went over it, which formed a kind natural barricade to women's bodies. La Ménetou evokes Françoise-Charlotte de Seneterre de Mennetoud, a child prodigy who played the harpsichord and was a child prodigy, performing for the king and composing since the age of nine. La Mézangère is named for Mézangeau who was an important lute player-composer in the 17th century. D'Anglebert has a transcription of one of his sarabands that reveals quality of this composer rarely heard.  La Chazé is possibly Sister Liée Magdeleine of Sainte Elisabeth Bochart de Champigni, known as Madame de Chazé's, although there has not been positive identification so far.


01 Allemande: La Ténébreuse (The dark one) (3e ordre, 1713)
02 L’Arlequine (Harlequin's piece) (23e ordre, 1730)
03 La Pantomime (Pantomime) (26e ordre, 1730)
04 Le Dodo ou L’amour au Berceau (Lullaby, or love of the cradle) (15e ordre, 1722)

05 La Couperin (François Couperin's self-portrait) (21e ordre, 1730)
06 La Lutine (The elf's piece) (3e ordre, 1713)
07 Le Carillon de Cythère (The carillon of Cythera) (14e ordre, 1722)
08 Le Tic-Toc-Choc, ou les Maillotins (double-headed wooden hammers) (18e ordre, 1722)
09 Les Satires, Chèvre-pieds (The satyrs, with goat-feet) (23e ordre, 1730)
10 Les Baricades Mistérieuses (The mysterious barricades) (6e ordre 1717)

11 Les Regrets (Regrets) (3e ordre, 1713)
12 Les Sylvains (The forest deities) (1e ordre 1713)
13 L'Anguille (The eel) (22e ordre, 1730)
14 La Bouffone (The comedienne) (20e ordre, 1730)

15 La Mézangère (René Mézangeau's piece) (10e ordre, 1717)
16 La Ménetou (Mlle de Ménetou's piece) (7e ordre, 1717)
17 La Chazé (Madame de Chazé's piece) (7e ordre 1717)


Recorded  (24 bit digital) by Eliahu Feldman at the Scottish Church, Jerusalem on 2 & 9 September 2005, 11 & 12 August 2006.
Edited by Myrna Herzog, mastered by David Feldman.
Cover design: Giomar Sthel
Photo of Giomar Sthel and Myrna Herzog by Eliahu Feldman


IBA News photo

 "As performers and interpreters of French music, Myrna Herzog and Giomar Sthel display astounding musical rapport. They probe each of the Pièces de Clavecin here in depth, providing fascinating insight into the musical world of Couperin le Grand, its innate lyricism and elegance, its  intensity, its wit and charm, its nobility of sentiment, its theatre influences, its fantasy and into that elusive “esprit d'élégie” that so often pervades Couperin’s music. Enlisting the viola da gamba’s plethora of expressive, coloristic and textual possibilities, the artists' playing of these musical jewels offers an extraordinarily rich listening experience. Add to that the collection's true, high-quality recording sound. " Pamela Hickman

Read the full Hickman deep and informative review of the album: French Baroque music in a new light: Myrna Herzog and Giomar Sthel record harpsichord pieces of François Couperin on two viols