Le Tombeau de Couperin - Maurice Ravel

The Tombeau de Couperin is a celebrated piano piece written by French composer Maurice Ravel between 1914 and 1917. It is a suite of six movements, originally written as a tribute to the French Baroque composer François Couperin, whose works Ravel had become enamoured with while researching music at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

History and Release

The piece was completed by 1917 and first performed at the Salle Érard in Paris on 22 May 1919 by Marguerite Long, with whom Ravel had enjoyed a close working relationship since 1906. The entire suite was released in the same year by French publisher Durand, a leading source of French music publishing.

At the time of the first performance, it was an immediate success, receiving rapturous applause from the audience. It remained in Ravel's own concert repertoire until he died, and was picked up by numerous pianists in the following decades for recitals and recordings.


The work is considered a wonderful illustration of Ravel's skill in incorporating elements of French Baroque music into his own neo-classical style. The suite is marked by highly inventive contrapuntal textures and delicate lyrical melodies, while at its centre is the more solemn third movement, 'Forlane'. Here Ravel employs a nine-note chord as the basis underpinning a languid and picturesque scene.

The rhythmic intricacy of this movement is often seen as a wonderful achievement in terms of construction, and a vivid example of Ravel's flair for harmonic extension. It has been suggested that Ravel may have taken the name 'Forlane' from a 16th century dance tune, while the predominant rhythm employed throughout the movement is constructed out of the 'dotted quaver-semiquaver' sources found in Baroque music by composers such as Lully and Couperin.


The Tombeau de Couperin has become one of Ravel's most performed and recorded works, achieving enduring critical acclaim for its combination of poise, charm and craftsmanship. It is seen as a timeless classic, which continues to draw countless new admirers to the piano repertoire with each generation.

The piece has also been often imitated, with adaptions and arrangements for various instruments, from flute and guitar to symphony orchestra. It has also been transcribed in various forms by other composers and is popular with audiences around the world.

The Tombeau de Couperin stands as an exceptional testament to Ravel's musical genius, and its place in musical history is secured.

Publication date: 22. 02. 2023