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Sept Paroles de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ sur la Croix, Les (Charles Gounod)




Gounod produced a substantial number of works of sacred music, whose restrained style of writing was always linked to the underlying meaning of the words. However, contrary to what has been posited by certain writers, it was quite unusual for him to employ the neo-Palestrinian style. Dedicated to the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur Sibour, who had stated that the qualities of Palestrina’s music were close to the true nature of sacred music, Les Sept Paroles de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ sur la Croix were composed in 1855 shortly before the completion of the Messe en l’honneur de sainte Cécile, but—although the latter immediately gained popularity—it has not yet been possible to track down any mention of a first performance of the Sept Paroles… Gounod himself put together the text from the Latin translation of the Gospels in the Vulgate. He took care to put each of the words into context, developing an elliptical narrative of the last hours of Christ’s Passion. The general key is F major; the related keys and their relatives provide ample resources for an economical score which uses effects sparingly. As a result, there is practically only one eloquent madrigalism for each word. Harmonic, vertical sections are alternated with contrapuntal sections (canons or imitations). The syllabic writing and melismas are sometimes dictated by the meaning of the words, as are the borrowings from related keys, but the abstract equilibrium of the polyphony takes precedence over illustration. It is crucial, however, to respect the tempo markings and the dynamics; it would be a mistake to perform this music in the style of Palestrina.

    Person - 1
  • GOUNOD, Charles (1818-1893)
  • Themes - 2
  • Genre – La musique sacrée au XIXe siècle
  • Sacred Music – Sacred Music at Easter