A beautiful excursion into the world of Parisian devotional music.
COUPERIN: Trois Lecons de Tenebres; SEBASTIEN DE BROSSARD: Trio Sonatas in c and a; Stabat Mater – Lucy Crowe/ Elizabeth Watts, sop./ La Nuova Musica/ David Bates – Harmonia mundi multichannel SACD HMU 807659, 70:32 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] *****:
The Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah at the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 form the basis for the Tenebrae services of Lent in the Roman Catholic Church. The term itself refers to the darkness spread in the church during the services of Matins on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. There have been many settings of these works over the years, some of which constitute a good portion of the greatest pieces of liturgical music ever composed.
The French style, of which Couperin was an excellent exponent, was one in which flowing melodies and a simpler harmonic excursion was a hallmark. The composer did work during his lifetime to reconcile it with the more adventurous—and perhaps, popular—Italian style. But here, in this most churchly of settings, the French holds sway, making for a meditative and extremely provocative and intimate experience of the great Prophet’s distress. But Italy is not too far away in that Couperin seems to harken back to the expressive and emotive prescriptions of none other than Monteverdi himself.
Unfortunately, we have only three of the nine lecons that Couperin wrote—six are lost. But there is still a reflective and orderly way to present this music, as is done on this wonderful disc. The first two are each for solo soprano, while the third joins the two in duet. Each of the lecons is separated by a sonata of Sebastien de Brossard (1655-1730) a native of Normandy (Couperin was from Paris) whose tenure as vicar of the Strasbourg Cathedral gave him access via Germany to the flood of Italian trends covering Europe that the Parisian public was isolated from. His sonatas make for an engaging interlude to the beauties of Couperin’s opus, and the final Stabat Mater concludes this devotional disc in a most satisfying manner. HM’s Super Audio is well served by all of these works. An exceptional disc!