Les Surprises


Meditations for Lent

by M.-A. Charpentier

par Les Surprises

direction Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas

Saturday, July 22th, 9 pm – Church of Valloire

At the turn of the 18th century, French church music adopted a dramaturgy close to that of opera, sometimes shocking the most devout with its suavity and harmonic richness. Such was the case with the Leçons de Ténèbres whose theatrical dimension never failed to attract worldly crowds.

This programme highlights the repertoire for male voices and continuo written in the late 17th century and the early 18th century. Ranging from the bass voice to the haute-contre, this kind of vocal ensemble was very popular at the time, as it makes it possible to move from a sombre tone to a powerful, radiant one. It also offers great theatrical potential, as the different male voices alternate biblical roles: the Soul, Jesus, a prophet, Man…

Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Meditations for Lent were mercifully saved from oblivion by Sébastien de Brossard, a great musician and collector who owned a very large music library. It was he who hand-copied these Meditations by Charpentier, the only surviving version. His library was well stocked with not only French but also German and Italian music, and his own compositions reflect this eclecticism.

Les Surprises

Les Surprises is a baroque ensemble of flexible size, founded in 2010 by Juliette Guignard, viol player, and Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas, organist and harpsichordist. The ensemble borrows its name from Les Surprises de l’Amour, an opera-ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau, and, trusting in the composer’s lucky star, aims to explore music in all its forms.

The work of the ensemble is anchored in musicological and historical research. Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas endeavours to unearth and promote music scores never removed from the music collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France since the 18th century, such as his latest productions : Passion with Véronique Gens or again Rameau chez la Pompadour built from unpublished operas by Rameau.

In 2014, the ensemble Les Surprises received the “Révélation musicale” prize by the Syndicat professionnel de la critique de théâtre, musique et danse, the first time in the fifty years of its existence the prize was awarded to a baroque music ensemble.

Since its creation, the ensemble has appeared at numerous venues and festivals throughout Europe and worldwide : the Versailles Opéra royal, the Massy Opéra, the Radio France auditorium, the Montpellier Opéra, the Ambronay festival, the festival Sinfonia en Périgord, the Saintes festival, the Vézelay Rencontres Musicales, the Sanssouci festival (Potsdam – Germany), Bozar (Brussels), Saint John’s Smith Square (London), Salle Bourgie (Montreal), Beirut Chants Festival (Beyrouth), Singapore…



Pieces by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Sébastien de Brossard, Marin Marais, Johann Jakob Froberger and Robert de Visée

The ensemble Les Surprises is supported by the Orange Foundation and the Société Générale Foundation “C’est vous l’avenir”. The ensemble benefits from the support of the Ministry of Culture and Communication – Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles de Nouvelle Aquitaine, the Conseil Régional de Nouvelle Aquitaine, the city of Bordeaux and the Conseil Départemental de la Gironde. It receives occasional support from the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, ADAMI, SPEDIDAM, SACEM, Musique Nouvelle en Liberté, the French Institute, the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles and the Office Artistique de la région Nouvelle Aquitaine.

It is a member of FEVIS (Federation of Specialised Vocal and Instrumental Ensembles) and of PROFEDIM. The ensemble Les Surprises is in residence at Sinfonia en Périgord from 2020 to 2023 as part of the “cross-residency” scheme set up throughout France by the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles.