Panis Angelicus

César Franck was born in Belgium in 1822. He showed early talent as a pianist, so much so that he entered the Liege Conservatoire at the age of eight and his ambitious father took him on tour when he was only twelve. In 1836 the family moved to Paris and Franck entered the Paris Conservatoire, winning many prizes in performance and composition.

Despite his father’s wish that César become a virtuoso pianist (which almost amounted to exploitation) he finally asserted himself and turned seriously to composition. Perhaps his most famous orchestral works are the Symphony in D minor and the Symphonic Variations.

Panis Angelicus was composed in 1872, originally for tenor, organ, harp, cello and double bass. He later added it to his three-voice Messe Solennelle which had been written in 1860.

The Latin text (translated as ‘O Wondrous Heavenly Bread’) refers to the bread of the Holy Communion.