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Lamentations by María Cristina Kiehr

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Lamentazioni per la Settimana Santa, María Cristina Kiehr, Concerto Soave, Jean-Marc Aymes
(May 8, 2007)
The Lamentations of Jeremiah are liturgically proper to the Triduum, when the Church bewails the execution of Jesus as Jeremiah did the destruction of Jerusalem. The book represented the summa of literary lament, echoed by Dante in his account of the death of Beatrice, for example, in La vita nuova. The text is a highly stylized set of poems, four of which are abecedarian in structure, meaning the initial letters of the 22 verses are in alphabetical sequence. In the Latin translation used by the Catholic Church, the Hebrew letters starting each verse were preserved in transliterated form (aleph, beth, etc.). These exotic words intrigued composers who set the Lamentations to music, first as chant and later in polyphony, inspiring lengthy melismas and unusual harmonic colors. This new disc from Concerto Soave is a meltingly beautiful and musicologically fascinating survey of late 16th- and early 17th-century monodic settings of the Lamentations, featuring the mellifluous and seamless voice of María Cristina Kiehr.

The disc is split into three parts, one for each of the traditional days of the Triduum. Each day features selections from Lamentations settings by a range of composers, some better known (Carissimi, Frescobaldi, Palestrina) than others (Kapsberger, Marcorelli, and some anonymous composers), as well as an instrumental toccata to provide diversion within each day. The excellent continuo accompaniment combines viola da gamba, harp, archlute, lirone, and an odd hybrid instrument called the claviorganum. The unusual tuning of the latter makes quite an aural impression in some of the instrumental selections. In most cases, a complete recording of each composer's Lamentations set would be worthwhile. Taken together, the disc represents a severely telescoped trilogy of the Triduum Tenebrae services, with a focus on the opera/oratorio type of monody that was dominant in the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods.

Kiehr's searing rendition of the refrain that always concludes the Lamentations readings at Tenebrae ("Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad dominum deum tuum") in the second Carissimi selection could compel the hardest heart to conversion, if not to Jesus then at least to Kiehr's voice. The concise but informative liner essay is by Barbara Nestola, a brilliant younger scholar at the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles. The only drawback is the translations, which do not correspond to the Latin text of the Vulgate. The English text has been lifted directly from the King James Bible, which was made directly from the Hebrew texts and at many points is not at all what the singer is singing. This is an issue especially because these composers were all principally concerned with setting the words carefully and with an appropriate affect. This is probably not to everyone's taste, especially at this high price, but for those who like the music of this period, it is a worthy choice.

Harmonia Mundi HMC 901952


Akimon Azuki said...

Interesting... I am a big fan of Couperin's and Gesualdo's Tenebrae, and I have, between the two of them, at least eight or so versions of these lamentations, so I have no choice but to check this new release out.. . Damn Harmonia Mundi and their constant siege of my wallet! I was hoping Amazon would have this in their new MP3 store , but no luck. CD-wise, ArkivMusic has a better price for what seems to be a domesticated HM release , as opposed to Amazon import version. They also have a deal with HM for the iTunes releases, but it seems they are a bit behind on the new ones.

Charles T. Downey said...

Thanks for the Arkiv tip. The price is an issue. As for Lamentations, please tell me that you have the Tallis set in your collection. The Tallis Scholars recording, from way back when, is dynamite. Amazon has a track for sale at the MP3 store. Great development, that.