Thursday, September 8, 2016

Music on Our Fall Concert pt. 1: Gabriel Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine

For the next few weeks I will be posting information about the music being performed on our fall concert, A Capitol City Choirs Concert, Sunday, Nov. 6, 3pm, College View Church, Lincoln, NE.
Today I begin with Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine. All of this information is "searchable" via Wikipedia and other online sources. It's always possible to dig deeper than what I have posted, but this is a great start.

Cantique is a composition for mixed choir and organ. The text, "Verbe égal au Très-Haut" ("Word, one with the Highest"), is a French paraphrase by Jean Racine of a Latin hymn from the breviary for matins, Consors paterni luminis. The nineteen-year-old composer set the text in 1864–65 for a composition competition at the École Niedermeyer de Paris, and it won him the first prize. The work was first performed the following year on August 4, 1866 in a version with accompaniment of strings and organ. The style shows similarities with his later work, Requiem. Today, the two works are often performed together. LCA begins this season with the Cantique and will conclude with movements from the Requiem at our fall concert.

The text reflects sentiments from Ambrosian hymnody which was used for morning worship on Tuesdays in Ancient church. The Ambrosian music would have been sung in a chant style. Faure would often refer to texts and even melodic content of ancient chant throughout his career. The serene and lyric quality of the Cantique shows, even at his young age, a particular sensitivity to the lyric line and long legato phrasing.

Here is a translation:
Word of God, one with the Most High,
in Whom alone we have our hope,
Eternal Day of heaven and earth,
We break the silence of the peaceful night;
Saviour Divine, cast your eyes upon us!

Pour on us the fire of your powerful grace,
That all hell may flee at the sound of your voice;
Banish the slumber of a weary soul,
That brings forgetfulness of your laws!

O Christ, look with favour upon your faithful people
Now gathered here to praise you;
Receive their hymns offered to your immortal glory;
May they go forth filled with your gifts.

What is a cantique and who is Jean Racine?
Essentially cantique is a French word for song. In this case Faure is referring to the text only. Jean-Baptiste Racine was a 17th century playwright. And this is his translation from Latin to French of the Ambrosian hymn. 

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