Out of the Shadows ...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 02/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"... the voices of devotion emerge somberly, and as the candles are extinguished, the mood of Holy Week - passionate sorrow tinged with adoration - thrills the devout. Charpentier's Leçons de Ténèbres are profoundly devotional, sincerely religious, perhaps even more spiritual than the Tenebrae music of Gesualdo or Victoria.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) is best known to modern audiences for his Christmas music. After all, "Christmas" concerts sell. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, however, Christmas was a less significant celebration than Easter and its preceding days of Holy Week. Likewise, Passion music was more elaborate, more intense, more varied, more profound. To my ears, the two sacred "offices" recorded here - for Maundy Thursday and for Good Friday - are the pinnacles of Charpentier's art.
Tenebrae services usually included plainchant, soft instrumental preludes, and oratorio-like 'lessons' in the stile concertato featuring declamatory solo singing. That's the format of these two CDs. Il Seminario Musicale performs the plainchant in the manner of Charpentier's era, complete with French pronunciation of Latin and with more musical delicacy than the monastic chanters of our times. The 'soft' instruments are gambas and recorders, played with Gallic piquancy. The highlight of the recording, however, is the singing of sopranos Sandrine Piau and Agnès Mellon, and male alto Gerard Lesne, who has never sung more archangelically. Tenor Ian Honeyman sings well - quite well - but whenever Lesne takes over, the music swells in expressivity. Recorded in the early '90s, released separately and now re-released together, these two CDs are my choice for the best Charpentier and the best Tenebrae music available. I'm not a believer in the Christian mysteries but, listening to this sublime music, I begin to feel that the 'lessons' of Tenebrae are of more value than the rollicking commercialism of Christmas."
Ramiro Arguello | Guatemala | 07/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a beautiful CD well recorded and the music by Charpentier: Leçons de Ténèbres is simply out of this world, the singing can not be bettered."