JOHANNA ROSA FALKINGER / MARIE THEOLEYRE
Trois Leçons de Ténèbres
Loris Barrucand | François Gallon
As composer to the court of Louis XIV, François Couperin was one of the most illustrious artists and personages of his time and the most influential musical genius between Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau; it is no wonder that his contemporaries also called him “Le Grand”. In 1714 he composed his Leçons de Ténèbres for the Abbaye royale de Longchamp in Paris. The genre of tenebrae lamentations had a rich tradition in France of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, above all in Holy Week, when it was integrated into the liturgy between Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday. Based on the biblical lamentations of Jeremiah, they tell of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, in the week before Easter set in relation to the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.
Couperin’s three Leçons de Ténèbres were written for the nocturnal vigil on Maundy Thursday. It has never been established whether he planned to augment the cycle with a further six compositions for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. He starts each of the three Latin Leçons with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet, and embellishes them in powerfully expressive, poignant melismas. In the recitative and arioso passages he switches between Italian and French style. Especially the duet of the last Leçon with its ornamentation, vocalises and searing dissonances is one of the undisputed peaks of Baroque vocal music – which the sopranos Johanna Rosa Falkinger and Marie Theoleyre, and the organist Loris Barrucand and the cellist François Gallon now awaken to new life.