Are there doublings or parallel octaves, especially with regard to the first several measures, in Louis Couperin's prelude "à l'imitation de Mr. Froberger", from the Suite in A minor?

I would also very much like to know which piece of Froberger Couperin is referring to, if any. I understand the former only published a couple things in his lifetime, which exceeded that of Couperin.


There is a difference between

  • Parallel octaves between two independent melodic lines
  • Octave doubling of a line as a method of strengthening the orchestration

The first of these is the "bad" version of parallel octaves that we seek to avoid in contrapuntal writing, largely because two independent voices briefly merge into one and lose their independence. The latter type happens, quite frankly, all the time.

Here is a recording of the piece, and a score can be found on page 21 (25 of the PDF) here. I don't see or here any problematic parallel octaves here, but you're welcome to point to a more specific part of the score if you like!

I don't have any firm evidence, but a Froberger piece on page 64 (84 of the PDF) here is vaguely similar (same key, similar opening arpeggiation) to the Couperin; maybe that's a start?

  • Yes, thank you! I am convinced this Toccata (as it says, from Book II) is the piece referred to in L. Couperin. – Erick Verran Oct 20 '16 at 16:37
  • Sorry, a further question: Would you say the opening of this Froberger toccata is representative of toccatas generally, or an anomaly? Does it contain octave doubling? – Erick Verran Oct 20 '16 at 16:39
  • I didn't encounter any octave doublings, but it's possible a particular performer could add them in, I guess. (But I admit this particular era of performance practice is waaaay outside my expertise!) Otherwise, toccatas tend to be very ornamented, often heavy with arpeggiations. Both pieces seem to fit this description as far as I can tell. – Richard Oct 20 '16 at 16:45
  • The Froberger is rather typical of the toccata style stemming from Frescobaldi, i.e., sectional works with sections of great rhythmic freedom contrasted by strict imitative sections. However, given Froberger's very large influence on later Baroque keyboard works, the style certainly spread, and Couperin's unmeasured preludes were an outgrowth. I don't think the Couperin was directly influenced by a specific work (the imitative section, for instance, is quite different than anything in the Froberger toccata), but he may have been trying for Froberger's distinctive harmonic style. – user16935 Oct 20 '16 at 17:09
  • Thank you, Patrx2. Can a line be draw between Froberger's toccatas / keyboard works and organ music? I am curious if, in moving a form to a different instrument, one would ever double the octaves, perhaps in response to the organ's greater breadth or natural reverberation. – Erick Verran Oct 20 '16 at 17:27

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