The marking of this curious but eloquent song is Largo. It is an incantation, as might be sung by a French Sarastro. The vocal line is notated in the bass clef, and for the first ten bars the pianist’s hands also remain there, effecting an initially dark and murky texture. The high priest begins by invoking Olympus in classical manner but redeems himself with an address to Christ, ‘notre unique lumière’. The composer manages the alexandrines (which he admitted to finding difficult to handle) by alternating freely between 3/4 and 4/4. The harmonization of this imposing hymn underlines the majesty one associates with le grand siècle and its ceremonial musical flourishes. Throughout this song there is a dotted-rhythm motif that evokes the sound of muffled drum (both hands darting down to the bass clef).
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013
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