François Couperin (1668-1733) was certainly the greatest of the French claveinists and surely one of the greatest of French composers. In his four books of Pièces de clavecin, Couperin took the harpsichord music of Chambonnières, Marchand, and especially his uncle Louis Couperin to the pinnacle of the French musical art with clear forms, graceful melodies, elegant harmonies, and a tone that eschews virtuosity in favor of expressivity. The six ordres or suites from Couperin's second book are no longer the series of stylized dance movements in diverse keys familiar from his first book, but rather collections of works more often than not bearing some sort of descriptive title, all of which are in the same key (with the major and minor modes being considered in some sense equivalent).
Music historians have puzzled over the enigmatic title of "Les baricades misterieuses" only to reach the conclusion that it will simply remain a mystery why Couperin named it Les Barricades mystèrieuses. However, we know that it is a movement, in rondeau form, from the Sixth Ordre of the Pièces de clavecin, Book II, published in 1716 or 1717. Like a Vermeer interior, the music conjures up the otherworldly stillness of place, in which a dreamer, reassured by the silent counterpoint of shadows and subdued lights, feels free to retreat into a world, distant yet strangely familiar, of tranquil thoughts and memories. Couperin, who profoundly understood the soul of the harpsichord, uses an even, almost uniform, tone, staying in the muted register of the instrument, to create a quiet aural background against which a gentle, intriguing contrapuntal tapestry is displayed. To weave this tapestry, Couperin employs syncopation and broken chords, achieving an unmistakable lute-like sonority with four voices. According to the eminent music historian James R. Anthony, this piece exemplifies Couperin's ability to transform the structure of each contrasting couplet of a rondeau from simple to complex by introducing harmonic and textural changes. A brilliant instance of this achieved complexity, Anthony has written, "is the final couplet of 'Les Baricades mistérieuses' (Book 2, Ordre 6), which, in its broken-chord spacing and in its delayed resolutions of suspensions, has the sound of Fauré or even of Schumann."
Although originally written for Harpsichord, I created this arrangement for Concert (Pedal) Harp and it is best played using the "GeneralUser GS.sf2" Soundfont by S. Christian Collins Software (http://www.schristiancollins.com/generaluser.php).