When Lalande left this vale of tears, his fame was at its height: between 1725 and 1730, he was the composer most frequently programmed in Paris. Audiences flocked to hear his motets, notably the three 'Leçons de Ténèbres' and the 'Miserere' for solo voice, written for the offices of Holy Week. Scored for small forces (generally one or two voices and continuo) that respected the guidelines of sobriety and restraint laid down by the Church during Holy Week, the 'Leçons de Ténèbres' blended the very special art of French ‘beau chant’, at once declamatory and highly ornate, with the Gregorian heritage of the tonus lamentationum, a very simple reciting tone that was used to sing the 'Lamentations of Jeremiah' in plainchant at Matins on the three days preceding Easter (the sacrum triduum). Between roughly 1660 and 1735, numerous composers presented 'Leçons de Ténèbres' for solo voice(s) which, performed by the finest singers and accompanied by a continuo group of a sumptuousness and variety that provided a means of sidestepping the papal ban on all other instruments during Lent, attracted a substantial public, making the Offices des Ténèbres a veritable social event.
“Karthauser’s plangent singing covers a broad range of dynamic expression without ever obscuring a refined emotional essence, and tasteful embellishments always serve the meaning of the Lamentation texts.” Gramophone
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