Couperin: Leçons de Ténèbres

Couperin: Leçons de Ténèbres
Sophie Junker, Florie Valiquette
, Orchestre de l’Opéra Royal, Stéphane Fuget
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS034. 53’03

Couperin: Leçons de Ténèbres, Motet pour le jour de Pâques
Lalande: Cantique Quatrième

This recording from the prolific label Château de Versailles Spectacles contrasts Couperin’s well-known Leçons de Ténèbres with his near contemporary Michael Richard de Lalnande’s Cantique Quatrième: Sur le Bonheur des Justes et le Malheur des Réprouvés and his own Motet pour le jour de Pâques: Victoria Christo Resurgenti. One of my biggest issues with this recording is the excessive vibrato from both singers. This not only causes intonation problems but, particularly in French Baroque music, wreaks havoc with the ornaments. One of the accompanying essays is a lengthy analysis of French ornaments, so it is surprising that more effort wasn’t made to keep the surrounding vocal texture reasonably pure toned so that the ornaments could be heard clearly. As it is, the ornaments often come over as just another wobble.

The grandly entitled Orchestre de l’Opéra Royal is cut down to just four people on this occasion, although they make a grand sound. The continuo accompaniments are occasionally too busy and often too strong. I am also not convinced by the frequent switching between organ and harpsichord or, indeed, why the harpsichord was used at all. It was recorded in the Royal Chapel of Versailles, the curiously boomy acoustics of which are a distraction that should have been dealt with in the record editing process. The programme notes are rather basic, with little information on the pieces on the recording.