Ravel composed Le Tombeau de Couperin between 1914 and 1917 as a suite for solo piano. Each of its six movements was dedicated to the memory of one of his friends who had been killed in the Great War that we now call World War I. The Toccata presented here is the final movement, and was dedicated to the memory of Captain Joseph de Marliave, killed shortly after the outbreak of the war.
Although the title translates literally as “The Tomb of Couperin”, Ravel did not intend this music to evoke what one might see or feel upon visiting the tomb of François Couperin (1668-1733), but rather to pay homage to Couperin and to the French Baroque era in which he lived.
Le Tombeau de Couperin was Ravel’s last work for solo piano. Perhaps it is appropriate to end our brief introduction to his music with the concluding Toccata, here given a dazzling performance by the Vietnamese-American pianist Quynh Nguyen.