Leçons de Ténèbres

DSC_5566sLast night, we went to Versailles for a concert given in the Royal Chapel on Couperin’s 1714 Leçons de Ténèbres (lessons in darkness). Although classified as baroque music, the leçons de ténèbres are more linked with the polyphonies of the Middle Ages and of Renaissance. The main theme, delivered by two and then three singers, was beautiful, especially in the splendid chapel of Versailles palace. Where maybe it was first delivered to Louis XIV, since those leçons were created to bypass the prohibition of royal operas during Lent. While I could not make sense of the sequence of songs making Couperin’s leçon pour le mercredi Saint, I found them mesmerizing, with the rhythm behind eventually revealed in the final songs. In tradition with the tenebrae service, 15 candles were lit at the start of the concert and gradually extinguished, one by one, the final notes being delivered in complete darkness. Perfect darkness.

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