Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

Les leçons de ténèbres

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 – 1704)
Seconde Leçon du Jeudi Saint, H. 103
Septième Répons après la première leçon du troisième nocturne, H. 117
Cinquième Répons après la seconde leçon du second nocturne, H. 115
Second Répons après la seconde leçon du premier nocturne, H. 112

François Couperin (1668 – 1733)
Leçons de Ténèbres du Mercredi Saint (1714)


Dessus I | Céline Scheen
Dessus II | Eugénie Warnier
Viole de gambe | Kaori Uemura
Direction, clavecin & orgue | Christophe Rousset



What could be more relished and snobbish at the end of the XVIIth century, than the “Ténèbres” for which queues formed at the gates of Parisian convents during Holy Week?  The Royal Academy of Music, closed down during this period and the nocturnal services on Wednesday Thursday and Good Friday satisfied a sophisticated and demanding public.  Out of François Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbres, motets for solo voices composed for the ladies of the Abbaye de Longchamp in 1714, only three Leçons pour le Mercredi Saint have been conserved. They are the very definition of the sublime, and bear witness to the vocal virtuosity and musical mastery of the nuns. As far as the Leçons de Ténèbres by Marc-Antoine Charpentier are concerned, composed during the 1670’s and 1690’s, they are amongst the finest compositions of this genre. Christophe Rousset has proposed a selection of them chosen from the thirty-one Leçons of the corpus which today is broken up. French music has traces of italianisms here which the composer was so fond of, lending the music a shimmering quality, and employing a dramatisation of the language which is enhanced by contrivances which strictly speaking are operatic.