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Leçons de Ténèbres by Couperin and Lalande

Composer Francois Couperin
Michel-Richard de Lalande
Performer Terence Charlston
Emma Kirkby
Agnès Mellon
Period Baroque
Catalogue Number BIS-1575 CD
EAN 7318590015759
Format CD
Release date Dec 2007
Total time 69'12

International Record Review: outstanding.

Within the liturgy of the Catholic Church there is a long tradition of singing the Lamentations of Jeremiah during Holy Week, based on a parallel being drawn between the text’s description of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC and the death of Christ. By the time of Couperin and de Lalande, a practice had been established in which the text was divided into nine ‘lessons’ sung over three days, with one candle of a special candelabra being extinguished after each lesson, until ‘tenebrae’ or darkness was achieved on Good Friday. Originally sung early in the morning on the relevant day, by the mid-seventeenth century the lessons were given the evening before, possibly as a response to the new vocal styles, which made the singers reluctant to perform at dawn. The traditional ban against the use of instruments during Holy Week is reflected, if not strictly adhered to, in the sparse settings of both de Lalande and Couperin for bass viol and chamber organ. The deeply spiritual aspect of the Leçons de Ténèbres can also be inferred from the complaints by contemporary writers concerning the use of opera singers: these did not always declaim the music with the necessary decorum.

Some of the finest examples of the genre are the three Leçons by François Couperin, composed for the royal monastery of Longchamp c. 1714. (Couperin himself at one time referred to a full set of nine lessons, but only the three for Holy Wednesday are known today.) Couperin, named ‘Organiste du Roi’ in 1693, was the colleague of de Lalande, ‘Maître de Chapelle’ at the French court, whose own Leçons were composed for the royal chapel. The five Leçons de Ténèbres gathered here are performed by two of the finest sopranos in the field of early music, Emma Kirkby and Agnès Mellon, who here makes her first appearance on BIS. They are given expert support by Charles Medlam and Terence Charlston, both members of the distinguished ensemble London Baroque.
Choose format
  François Couperin
01 Première Leçon de Ténèbres pour le Mercredy Saint 15'29
  François Couperin
02 Seconde Leçon de Ténèbres pour le Mercredy Saint 12'04
  François Couperin
03 Troisième Leçon de Ténèbres pour le Mercredy Saint 11'08
  Michel-Richard de Lalande
04 Troisième Leçon de Ténèbres du Mercredy Saint 16'05
  Michel-Richard de Lalande
05 Troisième Leçon de Ténèbres du Vendredy Saint 13'05
  Album total 69'12
ComposerCouperin, François
Lalande, Michel-Richard de
SopranoKirkby, Emma
Mellon, Agnès
Bass violMedlam, Charles
OrganCharlston, Terence

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