Michel Lambert: Leçons de Ténèbres

Reviewed on Mon 30 Jul, 2018

Michel Lambert’s sombre, soulful songs for plaintive solo voice and cosseting continuo accompaniment are exquisite, still points of spiritual reflection.

Setting texts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah and dating from the early 1620s, Michel Lambert’s Leçons de Ténèbres are a remarkable exercise in deepening introspection and contemplation for the period immediately prior to the birth of Jesus. As the light of winter at its height wanes and anticipation of miraculous renewal waxes, Lambert’s sombre, soulful songs for plaintive solo voice and cosseting continuo accompaniment are exquisite, still points of spiritual reflection. Heard together here for the first time on disc, they acquit themselves with a dark-hued but sublime beauty. Marc Mauillon is quietly, reverentially illuminating, providing beautifully rapt, nuanced accounts, abetted with intimate and intricate accompaniment from Myriam Rignol’s viola da gamba, Roussel Thibaut’s lute, and Mankar-Bennis Marouan on harpsichord and organ. Cut-crystal-delicate instrumental miniatures by Lambert’s contemporaries Nicholas Hotman and Ennemond Gaultier leaven the otherwise bewitching crespuscular mood. Evocative recorded sound and excellent notes by Catherine Massip add to the considerable pleasure.
–Michael Quinn