Notes to the composition
I originally wrote the Oratorio in a time of my life that was marked by change. I was turning away from Rock music and its superficial, lavish lifestyle, without having a clear idea about my future. The advancements of “serious music“ were still unfamiliar to me and everything “classical“ only seemed like an annoying memory of my time at the conservatory. It was with these presuppositions that I encountered the thoughts of Francis of Assisi. I tried to tangibly follow in his footsteps and I did so with radical vigor for quite a while. During this joyful learning period the composition basically developed on its own, which is the reason why the Oratorio stands outside of any kind of time or musical currency. It neither has a continuous style nor is it shaped by any criteria of any zeitgeist. The common denominator at the time was simply my motivation to experience the praise of Saint Francis of Assisi and to turn it into music.
34 years later, I was again immersed in the Oratorio. Although I no longer feel the strong, deep connection that I felt back then to Saint Francis (which was ultimately responsible for the strength of the composition), it wasn’t my goal to change it. Rather it was my goal to complete the work with all the experiences in music composition I gained over the years. I had to be very careful during this revision not to touch or lose the original works’ “Simplicità” (simplicity), which emerges as a positive naïveté. Ultimately, it is the authenticity of this work, what makes this praise, this laude, what it is.
Simplicity and beauty are the most pronounced characteristics contained within the lyrics of the “Canticle of the Sun”. It is noticeable that the word “beautiful” appears in three different verses and the related word “precious” is repeated in another two verses. Saint Francis recognizes the entire greatness of creation, the divine ray within creations inherent beauty. In the process he never separates the creator from his creation. To him, God is obviously never only the architect of his creation, but is contained within and identical to it.
Another characteristic of the “Canticle of the Sun” would be that all creation is seen from the perspective of and in relation to man. This is why many experts consider Saint Francis “anthropocentric”. This is not my opinion, because as previously mentioned, the Franciscan Brotherhood (Fratellanza) does not subscribe to the idea that creator and creation are separated. Therefore, every creature receives its own worth as a divine emanation and moreover stands in relation to man as “brother” and “sister”, exactly as described in the “Canticle of the Sun”.
In the second part of the Oratorio, I melodized a prayer, which was not written by Francis, namely the “Preghiera del Signore” (The Lord’s Prayer). I did this because I could clearly tell from the life descriptions of Thomas of Celano, who was one of Francis’ companions, that he gave this text an extraordinary importance. He encouraged his brothers to constantly re-examine its contents, and to reprint it and reinterpret it. I followed this advice in my German text inserts.
The Oratorio is concluded with the “Salutatio Virtutum”. It is the only text that Saint Francis did not draft in common Italian, but in Latin. According to Thomas of Celano, he struggled with Latin. It can be assumed that he used the formal idealization of this text about virtues in order to give it more emphasis. It is interesting that faith is not included as a virtue, because man cannot willingly adopt faith. It is either given to him or not. This means that a virtuous person does not necessarily need to be a person of faith, which again places virtue over faith.
The “Salutatio Virtutum” seems eremitic and is an answer or a codex to human behavior towards the previously gained understanding of divine intervention within the “Canticle of the Sun”.
In conclusion, let us recapture when and under what circumstances the verses of the Canticle of the Sun came into being. This way, we emphasize the unique personality of Saint Francis of Assisi even more:
He is suffering from poor health – weak and practically blind. While writing the last verses, he is fully aware that he is about to die; His stigmata, which he is hiding from his companions, hurt so much, that he travels on a donkey to his life companion Klara in San Damiano, to stay in her care; In the order (his life’s work) tendencies are surfacing that he disagrees with. Tensions are rising, indicating an imminent split.
What type of reaction to this hopeless and desperate situation could one expect from a God-fearing person? Probably that he would pray to God to be relieved of his suffering or ask God to somehow turn his situation around. Francis does none of that. No! In that difficult moment, on his small balcony in San Damiano, he writes one of the most beautiful praises in all of literature and religious history. He praises things, that won’t be his to experience much longer – because how many stars can a blind man see? He invents praises to a present reality that is only giving him pain and suffering, where there is no more future for him. Nevertheless, he praises it in a way that, in my view, is simply “wonderful”.