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F Couperin's Leçons de ténèbres


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Initial post: Jun 16, 2012 12:26:09 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
I wonder if someone can help me out.

I want to find the texts -- in Latin though preferably with a translation into either English or French -- of the selections from Lamentations which Couperin used in the Leçons de ténèbres. But I just can't find this on line.

I've just downloaded the Rousset record with Gens and Piau and I want to start to listen. But one thing I've learned is that, for me, in baroque music, it really helps to follow the text.
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Posted on Jun 16, 2012 2:31:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 16, 2012 2:34:22 AM PDT
Larkenfield says:
The on-line Latin text doesn't seem to be available, but there's a downloadable pdf of the English translation by Renaud Tschirner: http://tinyurl.com/87c34tf

Posted on Jun 16, 2012 6:27:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 16, 2012 6:30:18 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
Thank you

As far as I can work out he used Lamentations of Jeremiah. 1:1-5; 1:6-9; 1:10-13

That must be

Day 1

1:1 ALEPH. Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! Facta est quasi vidua domina gentium; princeps provinciarum facta est sub tributo.
1:2 BETH. Plorans ploravit in nocte, et lacrimæ ejus in maxillis ejus: non est qui consoletur eam, ex omnibus caris ejus; omnes amici ejus spreverunt eam, et facti sunt ei inimici.
1:3 GHIMEL. Migravit Judas propter afflictionem, et multitudinem servitutis; habitavit inter gentes, nec invenit requiem: omnes persecutores ejus apprehenderunt eam inter angustias.
1:4 DALETH. Viæ Sion lugent, eo quod non sint qui veniant ad solemnitatem: omnes portæ ejus destructæ, sacerdotes ejus gementes; virgines ejus squalidæ, et ipsa oppressa amaritudine.
1:5 HE. Facti sunt hostes ejus in capite; inimici ejus locupletati sunt: quia Dominus locutus est super eam propter multitudinem iniquitatum ejus. Parvuli ejus ducti sunt in captivitatem ante faciem tribulantis.

Day 2

1:6 VAU. Et egressus est a filia Sion omnis decor ejus; facti sunt principes ejus velut arietes non invenientes pascua, et abierunt absque fortitudine ante faciem subsequentis.
1:7 ZAIN. Recordata est Jerusalem dierum afflictionis suæ, et prævaricationis, omnium desiderabilium suorum, quæ habuerat a diebus antiquis, cum caderet populus ejus in manu hostili, et non esset auxiliator: viderunt eam hostes, et deriserunt sabbata ejus.
1:8 HETH. Peccatum peccavit Hierusalem, propterea instabilis facta est: omnes qui glorificabant eam spreverunt illam: quia viderunt ignominiam eius: ipsa autem gemens et conversa retrorsum.
1:9 TETH. Sordes eius in pedibus eius: nec recordata est finis sui. Deposita est vehementer: non habens consolatorem. Vide Domine afflictionem meam: quoniam erectus est inimicus.

Day 3

1:10 IOD. Manum suam misit hostis ad omnia desiderabilia ejus, quia vidit gentes ingressas sanctuarium suum, de quibus præceperas ne intrarent in ecclesiam tuam.
1:11 CAPH. Omnis populus ejus gemens, et quærens panem; dederunt pretiosa quæque pro cibo ad refocillandam animam. Vide, Domine, et considera quoniam facta sum vilis!
1:12 LAMED. O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus! quoniam vindemiavit me, ut locutus est Dominus, in die iræ furoris sui.
1:13 MEM. De excelso misit ignem in ossibus meis et erudivit me: expandit rete pedibus meis: convertit me retrorsum: posuit me desolatam tota die maerore confectam.

Or in English

Day 1

1:1 ALEPH. How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal.
1:2 BETH. She weeps bitterly in the night, tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.
1:3 GHIMEL. Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
1:4 DALETH. The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the appointed feasts; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her maidens have been dragged away, and she herself suffers bitterly.
1:5 HE. Her foes have become the head, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.

Day 2

1:6 VAU. From the daughter of Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like harts that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.
1:7 ZAIN. Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and bitterness all the precious things that were hers from days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was none to help her, the foe gloated over her, mocking at her downfall.
1:8 HETH. Jerusalem sinned grievously, therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; yea, she herself groans, and turns her face away.
1:9 Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her doom; therefore her fall is terrible, she has no comforter. "O LORD, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!"

Day 3

1:10 IOD. The enemy has stretched out his hands over all her precious things; yea, she has seen the nations invade her sanctuary, those whom thou didst forbid to enter thy congregation.
1:11 CAPH. All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. "Look, O LORD, and behold, for I am despised."
1:12 LAMED. "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger."
1:13 MEM. "From on high he sent fire; into my bones he made it descend; he spread a net for my feet; he turned me back; he has left me stunned, faint all the day long.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 10:04:20 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
See also Mandryka's new thread on Alfred Deller. The "Lecons" were recorded once complete by Hugues Cuenod, and made another record of the first and third Lecons that impressed Schoenberg and Stravinsky so profoundly that Stravinsky wrote his Cantata and a role in "Rakes Progress" specifically for Cuenod;s unique voice. There are recordings of both by Cuenod. Fischer-Dieskau also recorded one Lecon.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 10:55:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2012 11:56:37 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
I'm exploring this music a bit right now. I have records by Leppard, Rousset, Les Demoiselles de Saint Cyr, all the records Cuenod made of it, two records with Deller. I've ordered Jacobs' record.

Are there any other interesting ones? What interests me most is how well the text is made meaningful.

I should say that out of the above I like the first Deller the most, though there's a lot to be said for Les Demoiselles and Leppard. Leppard unfortunately isn't very tenebrous, just the opposite in fact. That may be a problem or an opportunity!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 11:30:33 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2012 3:24:47 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Cuenod declaims the text unforgettably, especially his melismatic singing of the illuminated capital letters of each section, but you are surely familiar with it. I've never heard Fischer-Dieskau's, although I've had it for ages. A little afraid to, and in doubt as to his equaling Cuenod. I haven't heard any other versions.

When you first asked about translations I checked my copies, but they have only the original text.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 11:51:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2012 11:52:45 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
Everyone does the letters beautifully. The text is another matter! Let me know what you think of the Fischer Dieskau if you listen to it, I'm quite curious. It could be interesting.

F. Couperin is turning out to be one of my favourite composers.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 3:23:28 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2012 9:12:52 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Mandryka -- Fischer-Dieskau in 1961 was already a little heavy for parts of Couperin's "Premiere Lecon de Tenebre". He sings the trills and ornaments well, but they don't carry the conviction of Cuenod or his other-worldly devotion. I also prefer Cuenod's diction and declamation to Fischer-Dieskau's or anyone's.

Edith Picht-Axenfeld plays harpsichord and Irmgard Poppen the cello. A brave effort, but in the end disappointing.

The EMI 2-fer includes cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti, Telemann, and two by J. S. Bach, including his light-hearted "Peasant" Cantata No. 212.

Some of these are also on five CDs of EMI's "Les introuvables de Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau" with Cleramboult, Rosenmueller, Rameau, Purcell ("When Night Her Purple Veil", J. S. Bach, Telemann, Loewe, Schwarz-Schilling, Reutter, Fortner, Milhaud, Faure, Debusy, Alessandro Scarlatti, Schumann, Beethoven, and Cornelius.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 9:03:59 PM PDT
Mandryka says:
Yes i had found the FD record on spotify. I thought it was not very good. Thanks though.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2012 9:14:47 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Mandryka, either you are up very late or up awfully early. That's what Couperin will do to you.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 9:18:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2012 9:26:43 PM PDT
Mandryka says:
I've got to catch a train.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 10:09:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 6:44:03 AM PDT
If you ask me, among choral music recordings of the French Baroque there have been four 'stand out' conductors & ensembles that should be considered in any discussion of 'best' recordings: they are (1) William Christie & Les Arts Florissants; (2) Gerard Lesne & Ensemble Il Seminario Musicale; (3) Vincent Dumestre & Le Poeme Harmonique; and (4) Marc Minkowski & Les Musiciens du Louvre. Christophe Rousset is good too; as is Jordi Savall--though if memory serves the only choral music that Savall has recorded from this period is by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. (He has, however, recorded a great deal of Couperin's instrumental music--Les Nations, Les Apotheoses, etc.).

Regarding Francois Couperin's Lecons de Tenebres, unfortunately we can rule out Dumestre & Minkowski right away, because as far as I know they haven't recorded it. It should also be noted that Couperin wrote the work for two sopranos, & not two countertenors. While I've certainly liked some countertenor versions, I happen to prefer sopranos in this work. It just sounds more beautiful that way. So, I'd pick Christie's Erato version as my top choice among soprano performances, with Rousset close behind. Rousset admittedly has two excellent sopranos--Piau & Gens, but so does Christie with Daneman & Petibon, and as a conductor, Christie shines in the music of this period--it's where he made his reputation: Couperin - Leçons de Ténèbres / Daneman, Petibon, Les Arts Florissants, Christie. Among countertenor versions, I'd go with Gerard Lesne (who may not possess the most beautiful voice out here, but is a great singer nonetheless) & Steve Dugardin. Lesne is also a very fine conductor of music from this period (especially Charpentier, who also set these words to music). I should give warning, however, that Lesne chooses to set Couperin's work in an appropriate liturgical context, which may not be for everyone. Among other countertenor performances, James Bowman & Michael Chance are very good too on Hyperion, and there is also Daniel Taylor & Robin Blaze with the Theater of Early Music on BIS, which I've not heard.

Edit--The Lesne disc is from 1991 and may be hard to find now. It is downloadable, however:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/francois-couperin-three-tenebrae/id332916734

The Christie/Les Arts Florissants disc can be heard on You Tube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjlRuzP2AKA

Edit 2: There is also a hybrid SACD recording by La Sfera Armonioso, directed by Mike Fentross, with sopranos Johannette Zomer & Anne Grimm on Channel Classics, which gets excellent reviews, but I've not heard it: Françoise Couperin: Leçons de Ténébres [Hybrid SACD]. (Channel Classics Hybrid SACDs usually have state of the art audiophile sound, if that matters.) (I've really liked Zomer in the past, but recently she has unfortunately embraced the new fashion of interspersing a heavier vibrato--such as on her 2010 recording of Bach's Magnificat conducted by Jos Van Veldhoven, which I didn't care for.)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 9:52:40 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2012 10:02:39 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
Thanks MRS. Apart from the Leçons I'm most interested in the late works -- Book 4 of L'art de toucher le clavecin and the two 1728 suites for viol and harpsichord.

I'm interested in what you write about Lesne. I thought Rousset's was a bit let down by Piau. Jordi Savall recorded Day 3 for Tous les matins du monde.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0JTY3e2_AY

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 6:05:37 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2012 6:11:48 AM PDT
I hadn't realized about Savall. What a beautiful performance. Too bad he didn't record the rest of the music. Thanks.

I don't think I have the 1728 suites for viol & harpsichord. Who do you recommend?

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 9:58:12 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
For the 1728 sonatas i like the CD with Jay Bernfeld and Skip Sempe.
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
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Initial post:  Jun 16, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 20, 2012

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