Fair Oriana: Divine Songs of Passion

Divine Songs of Passion
Fair Oriana, with David Wright & Harry Buckoke
St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, London EC1A
13 April 2022
(and at Sands Films Music Room on 21 April)

As part of their Holy Week Mass and Music series of events, the historic church of St Bartholomew the Great in London’s Smithfield invited the soprano duo, Fair Oriana, to perform their programme Divine Songs of Passion. This well-constructed concert was based around François Couperin’s c1714 Leçons de ténèbres pour le mercredi saint, contrasted with music by d’Anglebert, Purcell, Pergolesi and Blow. The date of the concert was appropriate, as the only surviving part of the Couperin Leçons de ténèbres is the one for the Wednesday of Holy Week. The other two sets of three Leçons composed for the following two days are lost. Although the Lamentations of Jeremiah depict the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, they have long been associated with Holy Week.

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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.

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