The Galaxy – I wonder what François Couperin would have thought of the Beatles?

François Couperin (1668-1733), composer

Francois Couperin

To me, the opposite (shall we say the “unfortunate opposite”) of being repetitive, as far as selecting material for The Galaxy goes, is when I’ve been thinking about a certain group or sound, yet for whatever reason I forget to bring the material in for the show.  Such is the case with the Beatles – they’ve been in my mind, but when it comes time to select material that particular thought just escapes me.  We have resolved this issue tonight with a nice set from various parts of their career.  We started off with It Won’t Be Long, from With the Beatles.  We then heard In My Life (from Rubber Soul), then back to With the Beatles for Hold Me Tight.  We then stepped up a few years to Sgt. Pepper for Getting Better.  Two songs from the White Album were next, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Happiness is a Warm Gun.  From Abbey Road, we heard Something, then Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, before finishing the set with I Want You (She’s So Heavy).

There is an interesting story behind the motets from the great French Baroque composer François Couperin that we are playing tonight.  These motets were originally part of a collection amassed by Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, comte of Toulouse (an illegitimate son of Louis XIV), a pupil of Couperin and a noted music lover and collector, who is said to have had a collection to rival that of the French King.  Upon the Count’s death, the collection went to his son, the Duke of Penthièvre.  Later, the collection passed into the hands of Louis-Philippe, King of the French from 1830 to 1848.  When Louis-Philippe abdicated, his possessions were sold by public auction, and the main portion of the music collection was purchased by an English bidder for 600 francs.  From here, they were passed to a clergyman with a keen musical interest, who in turn willed them to St. Michael’s College in Tenbury.  But in 1978, the college found itself in financial difficulty and was forced to place the collection up for sale through Sotheby’s.  A French dealer assisted the Bibliothèque nationale de France in acquiring the more important volumes. Another portion of the collection had been purchased in 1848 by private buyers, who donated them to the Paris Conservatoire, while another lot resurfaced in a small second-hand Parisian bookseller in 1930.  These lots were reunited with the main collection through the efforts of the Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre.  The happy, blessed result is our ability to enjoy such wonderful music as these 4 petit motets by Couperin, performed by Les Arts Florissants, led by William Christie and featuring haute-contre (essentially a tenor) Paul Agnew.

Some big band is next on the menu.  This set began with Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd’s Woodchopper’s Ball, from 1946.  We then heard Duke Ellington’s (Otto Make That) Riff Staccato and Prelude to a Kiss.  After that came Harry James’ All or Nothing at All, a 1939 recording featuring Frank Sinatra singing the lead vocal.

Another example of something that I’ve been trying to bring into the show for the last few weeks is the Cure.  In this instance, I brought the material last week, but was unable to squeeze it in, owing to the amount of excellent material that I already had slotted in.  We heard a few songs from their classic pair of early albums, Seventeen Seconds and Faith, starting with Play For Today (from Seventeen Seconds), then Other Voice, before finishing the set with Secrets.

We finished the show with some Pantera, yet another artist that I’d been trying to squeeze into the show for the last several weeks.  We heard a pair of classics from 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power, Walk and This Love.


One comment on “The Galaxy – I wonder what François Couperin would have thought of the Beatles?

  1. Great blog. I like the blog here very much.

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