Classical Gems: ‘Panis Angelicus’ by Cesar Franck (1822-1890)

Unless you are a classical music lover, the name Cesar Franck will probably not ring a bell. Born in 1822, the Belgian composer wrote a small corpus of works, including glorious pieces brimming with inventive, intoxicating melodies. From the sunny Violin Sonata in A to the intricate Variations Symphoniques for Piano and Orchestra, any journey through Franck’s music is deeply rewarding. Yet by far, his most remembered work is Panis Angelicus (latin for the “Bread of Angels”). This short work, lasting no more than five minutes, has been recorded hundreds of times, and is still performed frequently the world over.

The melodic line is sung by a solo tenor or mezzo soprano, accompanied by a relatively quiet organ and string chords. Here are two renditions of Panis Angelicus that I’ve selected for your listening pleasure, performed by the Crotian cellist, Stjepan Hauser, and the Latvian mezzo-soprano, Elina Garanča respectively.

The Lyrics

Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum
O res mirabilis
Manducat dominum
Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis

May the Bread of Angels
Become bread for mankind;
The Bread of Heaven puts
All foreshadowings to an end;
Oh, thing miraculous!
The body of the Lord will nourish
the poor, the poor,
the servile, and the humble.

Leave a Reply