Charpentier, Concerto Vocale, Rene Jacobs - Tenebrae Lessons for Ash Wednesday

Published Friday 13th February 2015
Charpentier, Concerto Vocale, Rene Jacobs - Tenebrae Lessons for Ash Wednesday
Charpentier, Concerto Vocale, Rene Jacobs  - Tenebrae Lessons for Ash Wednesday

STYLE: Classical
RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
LABEL: Musique D'Abord HMA1951005

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) was a popular and prolific composer although in the Paris of the Grand Siècle somewhat in the shadow of Jean-Baptiste Lully. The 'Lecons de Tenebrae du Mercredy Sainct' or 'Tenebrae Lessons for Ash Wednesday' had formerly been chanted rather than sung and had been considered a quiet, contemplative recital of the Lamentations of Jeremiah over fallen Jerusalem. Charpentier's radical Italianate style was, in its day, considered shocking although now is little more than a musical and historical curiosity. In 1982 Rene Jacobs laid down a benchmark recording with his Concerto Vocale featuring the sopranos Judith Nelson and Anne Verkinderen with Jacobs taking the counter-tenor part himself. Accompanying the vocalists are Wieland Kuijken (bass viol), William Christie (keyboards) and Konrad Junghanel (theorbo). The original release was well received and reissued in 1986. It is now presented in a budget package from Musique D'Abord and is well worth the money. There are other recordings available but this one is clearly the 'Best Buy' if your taste runs to French Baroque in the Italian style. Personally I do not attend a church where the Tenebrae Lessons would be sung or chanted on Ash Wednesday or indeed any other day so I cannot speak with authority on their value for worship. As a piece of music I found some of it of interest but the "Premiere Lecon" was hard going. However any project that involves Rene Jacobs will always be done well and if you want to explore off the beaten track this may be of interest.

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