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Re-evaluating French Baroque organ music

October 2011


David Ponsford

Renowned musicologist, organist and harpsichordist Dr David Ponsford recently published a fresh approach to the musical culture of Louis XIV.

Dr Ponsford, Associate Lecturer and Conductor of the University Choir and Chamber Orchestra, has re-evaluated French organ repertory from 1650 to 1715, to include all the publications and the most important manuscripts by composers such as Louis Couperin, Nivers, Lebègue, Raison, François Couperin, de Grigny, Marchand and Clérambault.

The repertory is examined by genre to give readers an understanding of how each plein jeu, fugue, duo, récit, trio and grand jeu developed in the hands of successive composers. In doing so, Dr Ponsford demonstrates a radically different study of French Baroque organ music by analysing each genre chronologically and tracing influences from Italian and French secular music.

The study also discusses the influence of this repertory on J.S Bach, leading to a better understanding of French influence upon the composer.

By linking stylistic analysis and performance practice, the book will be of interest to scholars, performers and admirers of French organ music. It has already been described by Canadian harpsichordist Kenneth Gilbert as “a book the organ world has been waiting for.”

Dr Ponsford said: " As a performer this repertory has always fascinated me, but I have found all existing narratives about the music inadequate. Also, appropriate performance practices have been only partially understood. Through stylistic analysis of each genre, I hope that I have enabled performers and scholars to increase their depth of understanding of this repertory, to stimulate further research, and to enable performers to play with greater authority."

External linkis part of the series 'Musical Performance and Reception', and is available in hardback from Cambridge University Press.

Dr Ponsford will be performing a harpsichord recital of music by Louis Couperin, Byrd and J. S. Bach in the Concert Hall on 25 October as part of the University Concert Series 2011/12.