Nicely presented with a thick booklet which has all of the texts and
plenty of helpful information, this Vivat recording ticks all of the
boxes for a feast of authentic period French religious music. The King’s
Consort musicians create the ideal atmosphere for Couperin’s Lamentations,
and both vocal soloists are highly effective and deeply expressive.
This release enters a market with string competition, not least from
William Christie on the Erato label (see review
The soprano voice is a defining aspect of these pieces, and Sophie Daneman’s
pure and strong solos are something a bit special. Carolyn Sampson is
equally sensitive, though both she and Marianne Beate Kielland are given
free rein to develop a natural vibrato, projecting powerfully while
avoiding anything too operatic. Couperin’s score is full of subtly
expressed emotional and dramatic moments. Contrast the dolorous vocalise
opening to track 10 in the Deuxième Leçon with the text
‘Sordes ejus in pedibus ejus’, ‘Her skirts are dirty…’
A kind of humanistic warmth oozes from the organ, but there is no mistaking
the desolation in both music and text.
Further interest can be found in the rich selection of additional music
in this programme. Marais’s Tombeau
is given some remarkable
slow vibrato and glissando effects which may catch you as heartrendingly
affecting, or give you cause to flinch. The Chaconne in A
easily digested and nicely performed, Susanne Heinrich’s bass
viol at times mixing beautifully with the gently thrumming accompaniment.
Couperin’s Motet pour le jour de Pâques
has a joyously
festive vocal duo for the opening Alleluia
, with tender descending
lines and a beautifully understated and compact summary of the Easter
narrative to follow. The two voices together work sublimely, supported
by the scantest of accompaniment. The mood of melancholy is resumed
in Monsieur de Saint-Colombe’s solo instrumental Prélude
and the programme is topped off with fine Magnificat
, in which
the voices once again join in the most delightful of imitative duets.
As you can imagine, this is not the kind of programme to have us dancing
in the streets, but these performances and the fascinating musical byways
explored make this release stand out somewhat from the crowd. It might
be argued that there is little to choose between this and, for instance,
Emma Kirkby on the BIS label (see review
It’s a question of personal taste, but I prefer the vocal colour
and less overtly dramatic manner of Carolyn Sampson in this instance.
There is something about the atmosphere of Robert King’s Ténèbres
which makes it more believable than many, and this is a recording which
will take you on a very long journey indeed.