Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine

Verbe égal au Très-Haut

Gabriel Faure 1864
Gabriel Fauré, 1864
I love the Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Fauré, Op. 11. In French, of course. The problem singing it that it’s so beautiful that I have to fight back breaking into tears.

“The text, ‘Verbe égal au Très-Haut’ (‘Word, one with the Highest’), is a French paraphrase by Jean Racine of a Latin hymn… 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 4 August 1866 in a version with an accompaniment of strings and organ.”

In my church, the members may ask the choir if it would sing at a funeral. This was the case in mid-September. The member’s father had died, in his 90s. Although the now-deceased had an ambivalence about religion and God, he specifically requested that his service be held in his son’s church.

The music staff had offered five suggestions of appropriate pieces in the choral repertoire. Jean Racine was one. Another one, which was also selected, was the final movement, In Paradisum, from Fauré’s Requiem in D minor, Op. 48, composed between 1887 and 1890. Jean Racine is similar in style to the Requiem, and “the two works are often performed together.” I’ve sung the entire Fauré Requiem at least twice.

BRAHMS

I wonder if one of the other pieces recommended, but not chosen, for the service came from a piece from Ein Deutsches Requiem by Brahms. The Fauré Requiem resembles it in structure, “although Fauré set Latin liturgical texts to music, whereas Brahms chose German Bible quotations.”

The fourth Brahms movement, How lovely is thy dwelling place, in English, is a funeral standard. One of my friends from my former church I know has specifically requested it for his service. If invited, I would surely sing it, hopefully, years from now.

LISTEN

Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine
Fauré: In Paradisum from the Requiem
Brahms: How lovely is thy dwelling place from the German Requiem