CHARPENTIER: LEÇONS DE TENEBRES

Leçons dating from 1670 and 1680 for two treble voices, theorbo and harpsichord.

Amongst Charpentier's most beautiful sacred compositions are his extensive Leçons de Ténèbres. Part of the dramatic Office of Tenebrae celebrated on each of the last three nights before Easter, the Leçons have their basis in the Gregorian 'tonus lamentationis'. Charpentier's synthesis of the Italian monodic style with the air de cour gave birth to a style for these compositions which is highly expressive and atmospheric. Jeremiah's emotionally-charged Lamentations describing the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and the prophet's call on his sinful people to turn back to God are exquisitely set; extrordinarily ornamented melodies are supported by a rich harmonic pallet, often infused with amazing tension and colour by the use of extreme dissonance.

We propose an evening concert of Leçons, dating from 1670 and 1680 for two treble voices, by candlelight in an historic church. During the Leçons candles will be extinguished, as is traditional in a Tenebrae service, to lead the listener on a spiritual journey into the darkness.

The three Leçons are performed without a break and last an hour. Depending on the length of concert desired further sacred settings by Charpentier and his contemporaries might be included.

Julia Gooding and Mhairi Lawson, both world-renowned exponents of French baroque music, are a perfect combination of voices to perform this ravishing and rarely heard repertoire. With internationally acclaimed continuo players Paula Chateauneuf, theorbo, and Gary Cooper, harpsichord, they form Les Lumières des Ténèbres.


Julia Gooding has been described as a soprano with "a perfect voice. a timbre of burnished antique gold" (L'Arena, Verona) and a "blend of passion, subtlety, technical control and perfect diction" (Irish Times) whose "rare gifts add up to a complete singer" (Classics Today). Particularly renowned for her interpretation of Baroque music, she enjoys an international career combining both concert and staged performances with recordings for major labels, television and radio.

Apart from Julia's extensive work with the Academy of Ancient Music (Christopher Hogwood/Paul Goodwin), the New London Consort (Philip Pickett), the Gabrieli Consort (Paul McCreesh), London Baroque and Florilegium, she has been a guest with many specialist orchestras and conductors including Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert, Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque, Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre, Ivor Bolton and St James Baroque, Marcus Creed and Freiburg Baroque, Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale and Gustav Leonhardt and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. She has performed Scarlatti Cantatas with Gerard Lesne and Il Seminario Musicale in France, Purcell Songs with the Purcell Quartet in Istanbul, Slovenia and Japan and songs by Byrd through to Elvis Costello with the viol consorts Fretwork and Concordia in Austria and Ireland.

Gooding sings with a rich, colorful sound, reaching easily from whispers to soaring fortes. A commanding performer, she brings drama and pathos to her deliveries without extraneous movement - the meaning is in the music and in her face. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Julia's operatic work has included the role of Romilda in Handel's Xerxes for the Operhaus Halle, Minerve, Amore and Giunone in Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria with Philippe Pierlot in a joint production with La Monnaie and the Kunsten Festival des Arts in Amsterdam, Salome in Stradella's San Giovanni Battista at the Innsbruck Festival, Dido in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in the Cervantes Festival, Mexico, and the title role of Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea with the Purcell Quartet on tour in Japan. She is currently touring (London, Bergen, Beijing and Paris) as Messagiera in Jonathan Miller's production of Monteverdi's Orfeo with Pickett/New London Consort.

Julia Gooding was shining throughout the whole performance. She has a beautiful voice, sang with great feeling and understanding and her articulation was immaculate.Musica Dei Donum, Amsterdam

Included in Julia's discography of more than twenty recordings are Bach's Magnificat and St Matthew Passion with the Gabrieli Consort/McCreesh for Deutsche Grammophon, Euridice in Monteverdi's Orfeo and Vivaldi's Dixit Dominus with the New London Consort/Pickett for L'Oiseau-Lyre, John Taverner's Sappho with the Academy of Ancient Music/Goodwin for Harmonia Mundi, Handel's Teseo in which she sang the role of Agilea with Les Musiciens du Louvre/Minkowski for Erato, Purcell's Odes for Queen Mary with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Leonhardt for Virgin Classics, Linley and Boyce cantatas with the Parley of Instruments/Holman for Hyperion and Music from the time of Vermeer, songs by Constantijn Huygens and his musical circle with Chris Wilson and Carole Cerasi for Metronome.

Recently Julia travelled to Brazil to perform song recitals with harpsichordist Maggie Cole and to Canada to sing with Daniel Taylor and the Theatre of Early Music. In England she toured Charpentier motets with Les Lumières des Ténèbres and in Germany and Latvia she sang Bach Cantatas with London Baroque. Future plans include Dido in Madrid with the New London Consort as well as performances on London's South Bank, in Budapest, Barcelona and Pamplona, Mozart arias in Buenos Aires with Florilegium and, as part of the BBC Proms, Purcell's Faery Queen with the Gabrieli Consort.


While still a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Mhairi Lawson won the International Early Music Network Young Artists Prize with the fortepianist Olga Tverskaya, which led to her first CD recording of Haydn's English and Scottish Songs (premiere recording on original instruments).

As a soloist Mhairi has appeared at such venues as New York's Lincoln Centre, Paris' Cite de la Musique, Theatre de Chatelet and Opera Comique, Edinburgh's Festival Theatre, Utrecht's Vredenburg, London's Royal Opera and Coliseum Theatres with such companies as English National Opera, Les Arts Florissants, The Gabrieli Consort and The Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

...the highlight of the concert for me had to be Mhairi Lawson.. the kind of clear and brilliant notes that pin you to your seat, knock your hat off and then blow you a kiss afterwards... The Independent

Beside her acclaimed interpretations of French repertoire with Les Arts Florissants and Les Lumières des Ténèbres, Mhairi has a special interest in the music of 18th Century Scotland and Italy, of which she has given many performances and recorded for CD with Concerto Caledonia ('Mungrel Stuff' was Sunday Times choice CD 2001 and 'A red, red rose' will be released in 2004). With the virtuoso baroque band, La Serenissima, Mhairi has performed Vivaldi's 'La Senna Festeggiante' and 'Laudate Pueri' in Venice, and recorded arias by Vivaldi, Hasse and Giacomelli for their latest disc 'Vivaldi in Arcadia', which has received much critical acclaim in Music industry publications such as 'Gramophone', 'Diapason' and 'BBC Music Magazine'.

At London's Wigmore Hall, Mhairi has given many performances of the dramatic works of Handel ('Alcina' and 'Aci, Galatea e Polifemo'), Purcell ('King Arthur' and 'Fairy Queen') and, most recently, Hasse's rarely performed serenata 'Antonio e Cleopatra', all with the Early Opera Company.

Mhairi Lawson. vocal and personal glamour. sexy and moving Concerto.Net

Recent and current projects include concert and operatic arias by Mozart with the Orchestre National des pays de la Loire (France) directed by Philip Pickett, recitals of Wolf's 'Italienische Liederbuch' and English Songs with the pianist Julius Drake, a recording of Scottish Classical Songs by the Earl of Kelly for Linn Records, and programmes of operatic and religious music by Charpentier and his contemporaries for festivals in the UK


Paula Chateauneuf's versatile playing on numerous instruments of the lute and early guitar families has been described as "one of the most exciting things on the pre-classical concert circuit". She came to London in 1982 as an American Fulbright Scholar and soon after established herself as one of early music's leading soloists and ensemble players.

Her dances made you want to dance, her laments made you want to cry. Chateauneuf possesses a magical ability to transcend technique and penetrate to the musical heart of a work. The Boston Globe

She performs with many of the finest early music ensembles, including the New London Consort, the Gabrieli Consort, Sinfonye, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Academy of Ancient Music and Jordi Savall's Le Concert des Nations. She is especially in demand as a chamber musician and accompanist for dancers and singers, particularly for early 17th-century monody. She has coached singers in preparation for productions she has been involved in at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the New Israeli Opera, and in addition has performed as a continuo player for the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Kent Opera, the Early Opera Project, Glyndebourne, Vlaamse Opera, Opera Factory, City of London Baroque Sinfonia and the Stuttgart, Hanover and Bologna opera houses.

But everything here delighted:...the Italian Corbetta's guitar chaccone, flying off Paula Chateauneuf's fingers... The Times, London

Ms. Chateauneuf has recorded extensively for Decca, EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, CRD and Virgin Classics. She researched, edited and recorded a CD of songs by Barbara Strozzi for Carlton Classics with Catherine Bott. As a soloist and ensemble player she has travelled throughout Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, performing at major festivals and recording for radio and television. In addition to her private teaching and coaching she is often invited to give masterclasses, and runs courses in continuo playing at the University of Birmingham, where she is also the lute tutor for the University of Birmingham's Centre for Early Music Performance and Research.


Gary Cooper studied organ and harpsichord at Chetham's School of Music, the John Loosemore Centre, and was an organ scholar at New College, Oxford. Between 1992 & 2000, he was a member of Monica Huggett's highly-regarded baroque ensemble, Sonnerie. He currently teaches harpsichord at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff.

Gary is now established as one of the foremost ambassadors of the harpsichord and fortepiano, and in particular, as an interpreter of Bach's keyboard music. During 2000, he made his solo Wigmore Hall debut performing the complete Well-Tempered Clavier, and has since given many performances of both the WTC, and the Goldberg Variations, at venues throughout Europe, N. America & Asia. Gary has made many recordings, for radio, TV & on disc, including an award-winning CD of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, which was chosen as the Sunday Times Classical Record of the Year, 2000. He is also an established conductor, having worked with many ensembles - most recently Portland Baroque Orchestra in the USA, and Arion in Montreal. He has been Musical Director of Kent Opera since 2002, conducting performances of Britten's Albert Herring and Rameau's Castor et Pollux; and will also be conducting Handel's Alcina for English Touring Opera later this year.

Gary recently recorded Bach's Goldberg Variations, and is in the process of recording J.C. Bach's complete keyboard Sonatas using period English instruments. His new duo partnership with violinist Rachel Podger commences, on disc, with a long-term project to record the complete Sonatas for Violin & Piano by Mozart - a project which has already attracted considerable critical interest & acclaim. During 2005 and 06, in addition to many concerts planned with Rachel, he will also be recording Mozart's Sonatas & Variations on fortepiano, and walking from Land's End - John O'Groats for charity.

Gary was named "Best Newcomer in Classical Music, 2001" in the Times; and has been dubbed "a rising star in early music" (Observer), "something of a genius" (Times), and most recently, the Sunday Times declared "music-making rarely comes as impressive as this" in response to a complete performance of Book II of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier.


It is often discussed amongst early musicians whether one should be French in order to perform French music well (or Italian, English, German or Spanish respectively)? The whole question is nonsense. The British sopranos Julia Gooding and Mhairi Lawson knew the gestures and decoration of 17thC French music in the most elegant way possible, as did the instrumentalists, American theorbist Paula Chateauneuf and Australian harpsichordist, Luke Green.

This very atmospheric concert was built of the operatic music of Lully and M-A Charpentier, and of the church music of M-A Charpentier. "Atmospheric" is the key word when interpreting French Baroque Music. One has to catch the transient beauty of a disappearing moment and image. In this skill of conjuring enchanting airs, the performers were poetic virtuosi. The text and its proper projection is extremely important in French vocal music. The British sopranos have instrumentally agile, fluent and beautiful voices, which express changing moods sensitively and are able to decorate their expression with charming ornaments.

As French as Lully's operatic music is, his Italianitá appears in the music's turbulent impulsiveness and passionate drama: on the other hand, Charpentier remains enchanting and pastoral in its appeal even in his most gloomy and agonising music, as in the ecclesiastical Lamentations of Jeremiah.

The sounds of the harpsichord and theorbo resonated beautifully with each other and conjured a rippling sound world of French Baroque Music.

'Ranskan barokin tunnelmarunoutta' Hannu-Ilari Lampila from Helsingin Sanomat, Finland 16.8.06.