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The work is in rondeau form, employing a variant of the traditional romanesca in the bass in quadruple time rather than the usual triple time. The effect is shimmering, kaleidoscopic and seductive, a sonic trompe l’oeil that seem to have presaged images of fractal mathematics, centuries before they existed.
The piece was voted at 76 in the Australian Classic music of France countdown. All four possible spelling combinations have since been used with “double r” and a “y” being the most common. There has been barricadez speculation on the meaning of the phrase “mysterious barricades” with no direct evidence available to back up any theory.
Scott Rossin a master class filmed and distributed by Harmonia Mundilikens the piece to a train. This clearly cannot have been the precise image Couperin was trying to convey, but it is easy to hear in Les Barricades the image of a heavy but fast-moving object mysteriesues picks up momentum.
In that sense, the mysterious barricades are perhaps those which cause the “train” to slow down and sometimes stop Moreover, it seems to form a set with the following piece, Les Bergeries. This latter piece, though more melodic than Les Barricadesset in a higher register and more bucolic pizno feeling, is also an exercise in using a repetitive motif in this case a left hand ostinato evocative of couperib musette to build sound without seeming mechanical or repetitive.
While the title reflects the musical structure, there may be more at play. The piece has been used as a source of inspiration by many others across different artistic fields including music, visual arts and literature. Some have simply used the title while others have created new works inspired by the original.
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Couperin – Les Baricades Mistérieuses sheet music for Piano –