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RC 52 Carmen saeculare

text source

Q. Horatii Flacci Opera Omnia. Recensuit et illustravit Fridericus Guil. Doering. Tomus secundus. Editio tertia (Leipzig: Hahn 1836), 401-407

first performance

1901-07-14 00:00:00.0 Maastricht (Hall of the Sphinx Company)

publications

  • Q. Horati Flacci Carmen Saeculare quattuor vocibus inaequalibus composuit Alphonsus Diepenbrock (ADF 12) Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds 20994914
  • Q. Horati Flacci Carmen Saeculare. Het Eeuwgedicht van Q. Horatius Flaccus voor 4stemmig gemengd Koor a Capella gecomponeerd door Alphons Diepenbrock Kessels, M.J.H. 32839565

  • Carmen saeculare
  • Horatius
  • mixed choir a cappella
  • 1901-01-22 00:00:00.0 - 1901-02-03 00:00:00.0

Diepenbrock composed his Carmen saeculare in behest of the Royal Choral Society Mastreechter Staar. It was intended as a compulsory work in the mixed choirs category at the international choral competition that the society organised in July 1901. The text is a poem with many strophes by Horace (65-8 BC) glorifying the city of Rome and its patron deities Apollo and Diana. Diepenbrock had already discussed it with his friend Charles Smulders in the summer of 1900. This hymn, written in 17 BC at the request of Emperor Augustus for the celebration of the traditional Roman centenary, seemed a suitable subject for the occasion. However, on 7 January 1901 he had not yet succeeded in setting the text to music: …more >

Carmen Saeculare (incipit)


Diepenbrock composed his Carmen saeculare in behest of the Royal Choral Society Mastreechter Staar. It was intended as a compulsory work in the mixed choirs category at the international choral competition that the society organised in July 1901. The text is a poem with many strophes by Horace (65-8 BC) glorifying the city of Rome and its patron deities Apollo and Diana. Diepenbrock had already discussed it with his friend Charles Smulders in the summer of 1900. This hymn, written in 17 BC at the request of Emperor Augustus for the celebration of the traditional Roman centenary, seemed a suitable subject for the occasion. However, on 7 January 1901 he had not yet succeeded in setting the text to music:

Whether it is the metre of the verse, or at the moment I am so devoid of music I do not know, but the result is nil, nothing but pallid themes and not what I expect from myself. (BD III:255)

Diepenbrock was at the point of handing back the assignment. But two weeks later he obviously found inspiration, given the date of the composition: 22 January – 3 February 1901.

Diepenbrock brought up the problems he initially faced in a letter he wrote more than five years later to his colleague, the composer Philip Loots:

All in all it is very difficult and actually impossible to set ancient strophes to music polyphonically, if one does not want to do the metrical and rhythmical composition injustice, in other words turn the poem into prose. Our modern rhythms are only suitable for accentuated poetry and not for “quantity” of the ancient strophe. […] When composing the Carmen Saeculare, I did my best to steer a middle course, but to an expert on ancient metre and rhythm it must be awful. (BD V:233-234)

The friction Diepenbrock observed between maintaining the classical metrical foot and converting the word accent pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables into a contemporary rhythm, has been solved entirely in his setting of the Carmen saeculare.

In programme notes Diepenbrock explained how he had translated the performance practice from the age of Horace into the setup of his composition:

The song was sung by 27 boys and the same number of girls. Both deities are invoked 3 times. Apollo as god of the sun, healer and prophet. Diana as goddess of birth (Ilithyia, Genetyllis) and goddess of the moon. They are entreated to ensure that the Roman people prosper, that the Roman power expands and continues, that the fruits of the earth flourish, that there is purity of heart for the young and peace of mind for the elderly. Most likely the poet intended his poem as antiphonal song, as customary in the religious hymns of the ancient. So the strophes addressed to Apollo were sung by the boys, those to Diana by the girls, in the others the two groups joined forces. Conform this concept, the composer has set the strophes for male, female or mixed choir depending on their content.

By setting three strophes for male voices alone and two for only female voices, Diepenbrock introduced variation in the sound of this large-scale composition. The four-part division in these strophes contributes to the grand allure of the Carmen saeculare.

Diepenbrock considered the first strophe an introduction. The second strophe presents the main theme, which returns four times, each time with the voices in unison. Other themes also connect the strophes. The setting is mainly homophonic with often surprising harmonies that make huge demands on the musicians. The passages in which the bass part acts as an organ point with long sustained notes or with repeated notes only, have an unusual effect.

Reception of the work
At the competition in Maastricht Diepenbrock was one of the nine members of the international panel judging the four mixed choirs (all from Belgium) that had entered this category. Diepenbrock ascertained that the Latin text and ancient Roman subject matter formed no obstacle: It was curious that half of the choral societies […] consisted of factory workers and such like and that these folk sang the Carmen S. with enormous enthusiasm. (BD III:322)

The first performance in Amsterdam by Klein-Koor a Cappella conducted by Anton Averkamp took place in the New Lutheran Church on 22 December 1901. Daniël de Lange praised Diepenbrock’s exceptional talent for writing melodies in all parts and feeling for sound effects. (BD III:629)

In response to a performance by the Madrigal Society conducted by Sem Dresden in the Recital Hall of the Concertgebouw on 11 February 1918, Matthijs Vermeulen expounded the following view:

Like Diepenbrock has sung the praises of the invisible world, God and his eternity in his Te Deum, he appears to have glorified the visible earth, her deities and her infinity in the Carmen Saeculare by Horace. In Diepenbrock’s oeuvre I would consider the Te Deum and the Carmen Saeculare two equal counterparts. The two have in common the splendid jubilation, the majestic sound, the immensity of the intonation. Indeed, what the Te Deum is for the Catholic Church, the Carmen Saeculare was for the Rome of Augustus: invocation and worship of the Almighty Gods. Also, Diepenbrock is the artist to transform both, the Te Deum and the Carmen, into living and real manifestations. (BD IX:575)

Interestingly, Diepenbrock’s Carmen saeculare was included in the programme for the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the University of Naples. At the final event on 6 May 1924, the work was performed at the ancient forum of Pompeii by the choir of the Theatre San Carlo, enlarged by students from the university, the Conservatory of Naples and other art academies. The large choir, dressed in robes after Roman statues, stood on the steps of the temple of Jupiter. The temple was decorated with garlands around and in between the columns and festoons of roses (see illustration). All of this was – so the reports say – illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun. The many thousands in the audience were noisy beforehand, but immediately went quiet when conductor Giuseppe Papa had come on stage and listened attentively. The thundering applause and cheering after the final chord continued until the last strophes were encored.

Ton Braas

 



Phoebus en woudkoningin Diana,
stralend sieraad des hemels, steeds te vereren
en steeds vereerd: schenkt wat wij u bidden
op dit heilig getijde,

waarop de Sybillijnse boeken gebieden
uitgelezen maagdenschaar en kuise knapen,
de Goden, wien de zeven heuvelen behaagden,
een lied te zingen.

Alvoeder Zon, die op stralende wagen de dag brengt
en bergt, en steeds een andere en steeds dezelfde
weder geboren wordt, moogt gij nimmer iets groters
dan Rome aanschouwen.

Ilithyia, bijstand der vrouwen,
bescherm de moeders,
hetzij gij Lucina of Genetyllis
genoemd wilt worden.

Doe, o godin, het jonge kroost gedijen,
begunstig de besluiten der vroede vaderen over
het huwelijk en hunne geboden rijk aan zegen
voor nieuwe geslachten.

Opdat een onveranderlijke jaarkreits over tienmaal
11 jaren gezangen en spelen terug moge voeren,
gedurende drie heldere dagen en drie lieflijke
nachten te vieren.

Moge de aarde, rijk aan vee en vruchten,
Ceres met korenaren bekransen,
mogen de veldvruchten door heilrijke wateren
en Jupiters winden gedijen.

Zacht en vredig, met ontspannen boog,
hoor, Apollo, naar het smeken der knapen;
tweehoornige koningin der gesternten, luister, o maan,
naar de beden der maagden.

Goden, schenkt de jeugd een ontvankelijk hart en goede
zeden, schenkt, goden, de vreedzame ouderdom rust;
schenkt macht en nageslacht aan het volk van Romulus
en alle eer.

Moge het doorluchte bloed van Anchises en Venus,
dat u eert met twee witte runderen,
heersen, machtig over de vijand, zachtmoedig
jegens de overwonnenen.

Reeds ducht te land en ter zee de Mediër
de machtige scharen en de bijlen van Alba,
reeds vragen de Scythen om vrede en onlangs ook
de trotse Indiër.

Reeds wagen Trouw, Vrede, Eer,
aloude Rechtschapenheid en lang vergeten Deugd
terug te keren en verschijnt welige overvloed
met milde hoorn.

En als Phoebus, de voorspeller, stralend
met blinkende boog en geliefd bij de negen Muzen,
die door heilrijke kunst de vermoeide ledematen
des lichaams verkwikt,

als Phoebus genadig de Palatijnse burchten aanschouwt,
bestendigt hij de macht van Rome
en de bloei van Latium tot een nieuw,
steeds gelukkiger feestgetijde.

En Diana, die de Aventinus en de Algidus bewoont,
behartigt de gebeden harer vijftien priesters
en leent gewillig het oor
aan de wensen der jeugd.

Dat dit Jupiter en alle goden vernemen,
daarvan dragen wij een goede en zekere hoop
mede huiswaarts, wij koorzangers, bedreven
de lof van Phoebus en Diana te zingen.

Phoebe silvarumque potens Diana,
lucidum caeli decus, o colendi
semper et culti, date quae precamur
tempore sacro,

quo Sibyllini monuere versus
virgines lectas puerosque castos
dis quibus septem placuere colles
dicere carmen.

Alme Sol, curu nitido diem qui
promis et celas aliusque et idem
nasceris, possis nihil urbe Roma
visere maius.

Rite maturos aperire partus
lenis, Ilithyia, tuere matres,
sive tu Lucina probas vocari
seu Genetyllis.

Diva, producas subolem patrumque
prosperes decreta super iugandis
feminis prolisque novae feraci
lege marita,

certus undenos deciens per annos
orbis ut cantus referatque ludos
ter die claro totiensque grata
nocte frequentis.

Fertilis frugum pecorisque tellus
spicea donet Cererem corona;
nutriant fetus et aquae salubres
et Jovis aurae.

Condito mitis placidusque telo
supplices audi pueros, Apollo;
siderum regina bicornis, audi,
Luna, puellas.

Di, probos mores docili iuventae,
di, senectuti placidae quietem,
Romulae genti date remque prolemque
et decus omne.

Quique vos bobus veneratur albis
clarus Anchisae Venerisque sanguis
imperet, bellante prior, iacentem
lenis in hostem.

Jam mari terraque manus potentes
Medus Albanasque timet secures,
jam Scythae responsa petunt superbi
nuper et Indi.

Jam Fides et Pax et Honos Pudorque
priscus et neglecta redire Virtus
audet, adparetque beata pleno
copia cornu.

Augur et fulgente decorus arcu
Phoebus acceptusque novem Camoenis,
qui salutari levat arte fessos
corporis artus,

si Palatinas videt aequus arces
remque Romanam Latiumque felix
alterum in lustrum meliusque semper
prorogat aevum.

Quaeque Aventinum tenet Algidumque,
quindecim Diana preces virorum
curat et votis puerorum amicas
applicat aures.

Haec Jovem sentire deosque cunctos
spem bonam certamque domum reporto
doctus et Phoebi chorus et Dianae
dicere laudes.

 

O Phoebus Diana queen of the woodlands,
Bright heavenly glories, both worshipped forever
And cherished forever, now grant what we pray for
At this sacred time,

When Sybilline verses have issued their warning
To innocent boys, and the virgins we’ve chosen,
To sing out their song to the gods, who have shown their
Love for the Seven Hills.

O kindly Sun, in your shining chariot, who
Herald the day, then hide it, to be born again
New yet the same, you will never know anything
Mightier than Rome!

O gentle Ilithyia, duly revealing
The child at full term, now protect gentle mothers,
Whether you’d rather be known as Lucina,
Or Genetylis.

Goddess, nurture our offspring, bring to fruition
The Senate’s decrees concerning the wedlock
Of women who’ll bear us more of our children, 
The laws of marriage,

So the fixed cycle of years, ten times eleven,
Will bring back the singing again, bring back the games
We crowd to three times by daylight, as often,
By beautiful night.

Let Earth that is fruitful in crops, and in cattle,
Adorn our Ceres with garlands of wheat-ears:
And may Jupiter’s life-giving rain and breezes
Ripen the harvest.

Gentle and peaceful Apollo, lay down your arms,
And listen now to the young lads’ supplications:
Luna, crescent-horned queen of the constellations,
Give ear to the girls.

Then, you divinities, show our receptive youth
Virtue, grant peace and quiet to the old, and give
Children and wealth to the people of Romulus,
And every glory.

Whatever a noble descendant of Venus
And Anchises, asks, with a white steer’s sacrifice,
Let him obtain: a winner in war, merciful
To our fallen foe.

Now the Parthians fear our forces, powerful
On land, and on sea: they fear the Alban axes,
Now the once proud Indians, now the Scythians
Beg for an answer.

Now Faith and Peace, Honour, and ancient Modesty,
Dare to return once more, with neglected Virtue,
And blessed Plenty dares to appear again, now,
With her flowing horn.

May Phoebus, the augur, decked with the shining bow,
Phoebus who’s dear to the Nine Muses, that Phoebus
Who can offer relief to a weary body
With his healing art,

May he, if he favours the Palatine altars,
Extend Rome’s power, and Latium’s good-fortune,
Through the fresh ages, show, always, improvement,
Lustra ever new.

And may Diana, to whom is the Aventine,
And Mount Algidus, accept the entreaties
Of the Fifteen, and attend, and lend a fond ear,
To these children’s prayers.

We bear to our home the fine hope, and certain,
That such is Jupiter’s, and all the gods’ purpose:
We’re taught, we, the chorus, to sing praise of Phoebus,
Praise of Diana.

 


  • A-48(10)

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    A-48(10) dated on the last page Amsterdam 22 Jan. – 3 Febr 1901

    • 2001-01-22 00:00:00.0 – 2001-02-03 00:00:00.0
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: 16

  • Q. Horati Flacci Carmen Saeculare quattuor vocibus inaequalibus composuit Alphonsus Diepenbrock (ADF 12)

    1922 Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds
  • Q. Horati Flacci Carmen Saeculare. Het Eeuwgedicht van Q. Horatius Flaccus voor 4stemmig gemengd Koor a Capella gecomponeerd door Alphons Diepenbrock

    1901 Kessels, M.J.H.

half mei 1901: Q. Horatii Flacci Carmen Saeculare IV vocibus inaequalibus concinendum composuit Alphonsus Diepenbrock verschijnt in druk bij M.J.H. Kessels te Tilburg.

Een magistraal werk is het koor van Diepenbrock Carmen Saeculare van Horatius Flaccus. Ook dit nummer diende als verplicht koor bij een zangwedstrijd en wel bij dien door de Koninklijke Zangvereeniging “Mastreechter Staar” te Maastricht den 14 juli uitgeschreven. Voor zoover mij bekend is, was dit de eerste maal, dat in een dergelijken wedstrijd gemengde koorvereenigingen optraden. Dat men van Diepenbrock iets geheel bijzonders zou kunnen verwachten, was wel te voorzien; maar welk een verrassing toen hij met den tekst van Horatius voor den dag kwam. Hoe prachtvol zijn de woorden, hoe kernachtig, wat nobele beelden ontmoet men daar. B.v. “Alvoeder Zon, die op stralenden wagen den dag brengt en bergt, en steeds een andere en steeds dezelfde weder geboren wordt, moogt gij immer iets grooters dan Rome aanschouwen”. (De vertaling is van Diepenbrock.) Zoo schitterend schoon de woorden zijn, zoo stralend frisch en rein is de muziek. Bij de tweede strophe heeft Diepenbrock een motief aangewend, dat men in zekeren zin de hoofdgedachte zou kunnen noemen van het gansche opus; de meeste strophen beginnen er dan ook mee; hetzij in origineele gedaante of min of meer belangrijk gevarieerd. Men kent de voortreffelijke eigenschappen van Diepenbrock's schrijfwijze. Vóór alles eene mooie stemvoering en een prachtige koorklank. Het zou mij te ver voeren, als ik de verschillende schoonheden der zestien strophen ging opsommen, maar toch wil Ik even wijzen op de zwierige cadensen aan het slot der 7e, 12e en 14e strophen. De meeste koren, die zich voor dien zangwedstrijd hebben doen inschrijven, tellen honderd of meer zangers. Waarschijnlijk heeft Diepenbrock, bij de compositie, de klank van een dergelijk groot koor voor de ooren gezweefd; het komt mij tenminste voor, dat het werk is berekend voor een flinke bezetting.

De Amsterdammer (Ant. Averkamp), 11 augustus 1901

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