The three very moving Leçons de Ténèbresby Michel De Lalande, published in 1730, are sung by the soprano Isabelle Desrochers, and this recording also includes four ‘tombeaux’, instrumental pieces commemorating a dead person. Two of them are by Marin Marais: Tombeau de Sainte-Colombeand Tombeau pour Monsieur de Lully.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier studied in Italy with Giacomo Carissimi, and he was one of the first composers to introduce aspects of Italian styles to France. His big motets lend themselves naturally to operatic singing, and even in liturgical works like the ones collected on this release, the Italian influences are still there. Sample the Magnificat à 3, with its ground bass-like construction and its unusual texture, including three male voices (bass, tenor, and haute-contre). The opening Litanies de la vierge are for a six-voice group, but the bulk of the program consists of the titular Leçons de ténèbres, solo works (two for bass and one for haute-contre) with a small ensemble to which is given a good quantity of expressive writing and contrapuntal clashes.
Michel Lambert was a court composer to King Louis XIV of France, and the father-in-law of Lully. He has been known, if at all, for his court airs setting common French poems of the day. He wrote two sets of Tenebrae Lessons, of which the one recorded here is the earlier. Reconstructing it sounds like a pretty speculative enterprise, which is probably why it hasn't been recorded before; contemporary descriptions mention a vocal trio, but here a single voice is used.
The music of the French Baroque has always been a tougher sell than the flashy Italian or the faith-embodying German, and when French Baroque sacred music is recorded it's almost always in the weighty grand motet genre, redolent of French court splendor. These Leçons de Ténèbres, or Responsories for Holy Week, of Michel-Richard de Lalande are something else again: intimate pieces for soprano and a small ensemble.
None of us knew what to expect when we took the plunge into the first cycle of the Leçons de Ténèbres by Lambert. The secular work of this great master of the French XVII Century – one of the great singers and pedagogues of his time – was known to us, each one of us having performed many times his wonderful court airs. We thereupon thought that we were on known territory and able to adapt ourselves to suit his religious music, even though it seemed odd to us that these Leçons were not better known or often performed and even less recorded – this first cycle being the very first recording. But from the first working session, we understood why. It took a good three hours just to read the first Leçon – for about ten minutes worth of music! Indeed, the vocal line, abundantly ornamented with Gregorian ‘plainchant ’, is not rhythmically rigorously organised in relation to the basso continuo line.'
Voici un livre qui provoque et éveille la conscience. Il vous amène beaucoup plus loin qu'une simple astrologie descriptive qui bonifie l'ego de qualités et banalise les défauts. Pour chacun des signes, les 12 leçons de vie vous présentent lqualités et défauts afin que ces derniers soient travaillés. Savez-vous que vos points faibles et vos défauts sont vos plus grandes leçons de vie ? Qui n'a pas dit un jour : « Si j'avais su ! » …