'The harpsichord is perfect in its compass, and brilliant in itself; but, as one can neither swell nor diminish its notes, I shall always be grateful to those who, through consummate art sustained by good taste, manage to make this instrument capable of expression.’ Why is it difficult to play the music of François Couperin when it seems so simple at first glance? By offering precious information on the interpretation of his music (and more generally on the interpretation of French music of his time) in his treatise L’Art de toucher le clavecin (The art of harpsichord playing), Couperin provides us with the necessary elements for today's performer, who seeks above all to respect the composer's intentions.
However, fear of not going beyond the indications given by the latter and excessive attention to every detail can inhibit inspiration and distract from the purpose of the works. Like the French language, it consists of rules but also of many exceptions. Modern grammars and dictionaries give us complete, firm, infallible answers to all these questions. But things were quite different at the time.