La Sfera Armoniosa

François Couperin: Leçons de Ténèbres

The serene and lyrical Leçons de Ténèbres by François Couperin (1668-1733) comprises three books of songs devoted to the lamentations of Jeremiah. Simply expressed by one and sometimes two sopranos and basso continuo, the songs are as consistently calm as a rock album is consistently drumming. Listening is pleasant enough, and following the Latin translation reveals subtle relationships between music and text. But the ultimate way to experience it is as it was originally performed. At each cadence, where a melody ends and the singer takes a breath, a candle is extinguished. As the light dims, and the last candle finally goes out, the inner contemplation is supreme. Soprano Johannette Zomer says, “When we finally finished in complete darkness, we completed an unforgettable musical journey.”