Monday, December 20, 2010

Poulenc's Litanies of the Blessed Virgin

This piece was performed by the University Chorale this semester and I found it so intriguing, I had to post it here. The Litanies a la Vierge Noire were composed by the French composer Francis Poulenc in 1936 after a friend and fellow composer died in an automobile accident. The circumstances under which Poulenc was composing this piece are quite apparent as one listens to its performance and reads the text. One can hear the composer grappling with death, grief, despair, and hope as Poulenc alternates between sharp dissonances and piercing harmonies. When I listen to it, it reminds me of the tragedies and horrors of the Second World War, which is why I posted an image of the railroad in winter at Auschwitz beneath the translation. I'm almost certain that when I see Auschwitz, Poulenc's Litanies will be sounding in my head. To listen to a recording, click on the link below.
Litanies a la Vierge Noire
1936, Francis Poulenc

Translation:

Lord, have pity on us.
Jesus Christ, have pity on us.
Jesus Christ, hear us.
Jesus Christ, grant our prayers. 
God the Father, creator, have pity on us.
God the Son, redeemer, have pity on us.
God the Holy Spirit, sanctifier, have pity on us.
Holy Trinity, who are one single God, have pity on us. 
Holy Virgin Mary, pray for us.
Virgin, queen and patron, pray for us.
Virgin, whom Zacchaeus the tax-collector made us know and love,
Virgin, to whom Zacchaeus or Saint Amadour raised this sanctuary,
Pray for us, pray for us. 
Queen of the sanctuary, which Saint Martial consecrated,
And where he celebrated his holy mysteries,
Queen, before whom knelt Saint Louis
Asking of you good fortune for France,
Pray for us, pray for us.
Queen, to whom Roland consecrated his sword, pray for us.
Queen, whose banner won the battles, pray for us.
Queen, whose hand delivered the captives, pray for us.
Our Lady, whose pilgrimage is enriched by special favours,
Our Lady, whom impiety and hate have often wished to destroy,
Our Lady, whom the peoples visit as of old,
Pray for us, pray for us.
Lamb of God, who wipes out the sins of the world, pardon us.
Lamb of God, who wipes out the sins of the world, grant our prayers.
Lamb of God, who wipes out the sins of the world, have pity on us.
 Our Lady, pray for us,
To the end that we may be worthy of Jesus Christ.



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