On Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., Leslie Bell, soprano; Kate Engel Meifert, mezzo-soprano; and Kevin Murphy, organ will present the Tenebrae Lessons of François Couperin.
The “Leçons de ténèbres pour le mercredi saint” (“Tenebrae Readings for Holy Wednesday”) are a series of three vocal pieces composed by François Couperin for the liturgies of Holy Week, 1714, at the Royal Abbey at Longchamp, outside of Paris. Couperin’s Leçons use the Latin text of the Old Testament Book of Lamentations, in which Jeremiah deplores the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. In Catholic tradition, they symbolize the loneliness of Christ, betrayed by Judas and abandoned by his apostles. The lessons are for two high vocalists and basso continuo. They are composed of three lessons (two other sets of three for Thursday and Friday having been lost). Each Latin verse is preceded by a melisma on the first letter of the Hebrew text. The first two were composed for one single voice, while the third was written for two voices. This last Leçon, where the two voices perform superb appogiatura, ornaments, dissonances and vocalizing, is considered as one of the undisputed peaks of Baroque vocal music.