Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sunday 30th July Trinity 7

“Panis Angelicus”  César Franck

“Panis Angelicus” (Bread of Heaven) is the penultimate strophe (stanza) of the hymn “Sacrum solemnis” written by St Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi.

This particular stanza has often been set to music separately from the rest of the hymn.  In 1872 César Franck set the stanza for Tenor voice, harp, cello and organ and incorporated it into his “Messe à trios voix” Op 12.  Today’s version was arranged by Henry Geehl.

César Franck (1822 – 1890) was born in Liège (now Belgium but in 1822 part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands).  He was a composer, pianist, organist and music teacher working in Paris during his adult life.

He gave his first concert in Liège in 1834 and studied privately in Paris from 1835.  He returned briefly to Belgium but after a disastrous reception to “Ruth”, an early oratorio, he went back to Paris.  He married and started his career as teacher and organist.  He gained a reputation for improvisation.

In 1850 he became organist at Sainte-Clotilde where he remained for the rest of his life. He became a professor at the Paris Conservatoire in 1872 and at the same time, he took French nationality, a prerequisite for his professorship. Once at the conservatoire, Franck wrote many pieces that have entered the classical repertoire.

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