- O mors, ero mors tua, antiphon for Tenebrae
The music of the French Baroque has always been a tougher sell than the flashy Italian or the faith-embodying German, and when French Baroque sacred music is recorded it's almost always in the weighty grand motet genre, redolent of French court splendor. These "Leçons de Ténèbres," or Responsories for Holy Week, of Michel-Richard de Lalande are something else again: intimate pieces for soprano and a small ensemble. Thanks to a tangled publication history (it's not clear when they were composed, and they were published in 1730 in an apparently incomplete state), they have remained almost unknown. Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser, the Ensemble Correspondances, and their leader, Sébastien Daucé make a good case for the music here, introducing the "Leçons de Ténèbres" with a substantial "Miserere" and interspersing choral pieces among the three lessons. The music has an unusual mixture of deep solemnity -- the "Lessons" are introduced by heavily ornamented lines intoning the names of the single letters of the Hebrew alphabet that preface them -- and detailed response to the text. Karthäuser, whose voice is just the right size for the music, catches this duality. The "Leçons" wouldn't have been sung all together like this, and for general listeners the program may consist of a bit too much basically similar music for soprano. But for anyone interested in what French courtiers heard at religious services, this release may well be essential: de Lalande, though not so often performed today, was perhaps the most popular French composer of his time.