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One of the greatest figures of the French classical school, François Couperin (1668–1733), called le grand, was royal organist at the court of Louis XIV and the leading French composer of his day. Trained early as an organist, he possessed solid contrapuntal skills as well as a softness and naturalness of style characteristic of French music. His two masses for organ were his only compositions for this instrument.
Published when Couperin was only 21, his organ masses display not only a thoroughly assured compositional technique, but a rich gift for melodic lines both expressive and ebullient. The majestic Messe pour les Paroisses was intended for use on principal feast days of the church. Messe pour les Couvents is more intimate in style, possibly used in pseudo-plainchant musical mass popular in French religious communities in the late 17th century. Both works, reproduced here from earlier authoritative editions, stand at the summit of French classic organ composition.