> Francois VERCKEN Lucernaire [AAS]: Classical Reviews- May 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Francois VERCKEN
Lucernaire (Office of the Body and Blood of Christ)
Les Petits Chanteurs de Lyon/various instrumentalists/Jean-Francois Duchamp
Recording of a live performance given at a conference of L’Association Art d’Église in the church of St Jacques, Rheims, on 4 June 1994.
CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line.

NOTE • Click on the button and you can buy the disc or read the booklet details • You can also access each track which you may then sample or down load. • Further Information.

If ever an unfamiliar piece required detailed programme notes this essentially liturgical piece is one such: but the information supplied is scrappy in the extreme. Of the composer (born, at a guess, in the 1920s) we learn that he held a prominent position in French radio and has written predominantly religious music. The texts for Lucernaire were assembled by Didier Rimaud, a French Jesuit notable for ‘many fine hymns’ and other religious texts. The words of Lucernaire are printed only in French.

Lucernaire ‘is structured in the ancient tradition of an evening Office that takes place during the lighting of the lamps.’ It’s not, I fear, a ‘tradition’ I am familiar with: it seems to be loosely based on the Office of Vespers for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

The work was commissioned by L’Association Art d’Église whose object, we are told, is ‘to encourage the creation of quality contemporary art in places of worship’ and acts ‘with the approval of the French Church’. If so, and if the underlying purposes are to enhance the beauty of the liturgy, to create new sources of inspiration and to help revitalise the Christian church, then I despair. I have never heard such unremittingly dreary church music in my life (no doubt, however, as is the way when ‘experts’ and enthusiasts gather at their beloved conferences, it was hailed as a ‘significant work of our time’).

The bleak opening bars (sample 1) provide an ominous warning of the pain in store. Mostly written in a dense and dissonant idiom (violent brief note-clusters on organ frequently punctuate its flow), the work is totally devoid of rhythmic vitality and offers little melodic relief (save for one of its thirteen sections which is pure Gregorian chant). The longest section (at 10:00, Litanies d’Intercession) is at least tolerable (sample 2), though the material is not striking enough to sustain the inevitable repetitions of the litany form. The concluding Acclamation begins in a promising quasi-chorale style, but rapidly moves to a resumé of some of the work’s disagreeable features (sample 3).

The other day I heard a live performance of Stainer’s much-mocked The Crucifixion for the first time: no masterpiece, certainly, but in its emotional impact and devotional significance it leaves Lucernaire stranded in a world totally remote in my judgement from that of the average churchgoer.

Listening to the three samples (chosen at random) others may arrive at a different conclusion. Given that it was recorded live, the performance is pretty impressive, particularly by the ‘Chanteurs’ in their mastery of ungrateful vocal lines and elusive harmonies, and the sound quality more than adequate.

Adrian Smith

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION • You can sample only 30 seconds (or 15% if that is longer) of a given track. Select from the View tracks list. Each sample will normally start from the beginning but you can drag the slider to any position before pressing play. • PLEASE NOTE: If you are behind a firewall and the sound is prematurely terminated you may need to register Ludwig as a trusted source with your firewall software. •You will need Quicktime to hear sound samples. Get a free Quicktime download here • If you cannot see the "Sample All Tracks" button you need to download Flash from here.

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.