Charles Gounod was born exactly 200 years ago, in the month of June 1818. A Catholic who held his faith deeply throughout his life, he seriously considered becoming a priest before deciding to remain dedicated exclusively to his music. Catholic worship (the Traditional Roman Mass) remained a decisive influence for him throughout his life.
In his explanation of the title of his 1885 oratorio Mors et Vita, that he dedicated to the great Pope Leo XIII, Gounod presented his deep Faith:
Death - Life - Order - Things - Death
"Death is placed before life because, in the eternal order of things, death precedes life, even if, in the temporal order, life precedes death. Death is the end of an existence that ends each day. But it is the first moment of a birth that will become eternal."
Not long after his death, in 1893, one of the oldest French magazines, the Revue des Deux Mondes, published a long essay in his honor. We quote the following remarkable excerpt:
Words - Saint - Bernard - Motto - Cistercians
The words of Saint Bernard [and motto of the Cistercians], ardere et lucere, could also have been Gounod's motto. His work is luminous, and it is also warm. If we pick randomly any melody from his work, ... in each of these burns a fire, a fire of love. A love that we are made to notice. The love that Gounod sings is not violent, but tender; it has nothing of bitter or frenetic; we never feel it, as in Wagner, as related to destruction and death....
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