Charles Gounod was born in Paris, the son of a pianist
mother and an artist father. His mother was his first
piano teacher. Under her tutelage, Gounod first showed
his musical talents. He entered the Paris
Conservatoire, where he studied under Fromental Halévy
and Pierre Zimmermann. He is best known for his operas
Faust and Romeo et Juliette and for his Ave Maria
(1859). Except for concertos, he composed music in the
major genres, but with varying success in the
instrumental realm. Gounod was more at home in the
vocal arena, particularly in opera and sacred music.
Though his reputation began to fade even before he
died, he is still generally regarded as a major figure
in nineteenth century French music. Stylistically, he
was a conservative whose influence nevertheless
extended to Bizet, Saint-Saëns, and Massenet. He could
not be called a trailblazer or the founder of any
movement or school. His works are tuneful, his vocal
writing imaginative, and orchestral scoring masterly.
Gounod's compositions, even his two symphonies and
lesser known operas, are occasionally explored today,
and the aforementioned Faust and Romeo et Juliette and
Ave Maria are widely performed and recorded.
Ave verum corpus is a short Eucharistic hymn that has
been set to music by various composers. It dates from
the 14th century and has been attributed to Pope
Innocent VI. During the Middle Ages it was sung at the
elevation of the host during the consecration. It was
also used frequently during Benediction of the Blessed
The hymn's title means "Hail, true body", and is based
on a poem deriving from a 14th-century manuscript from
the Abbey of Reichenau, Lake Constance.The poem is a
meditation on the Catholic belief in Jesus's Real
Presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist, and ties it
to the Catholic conception of the redemptive meaning of
suffering in the life of all believers.
Although originally written for Voice (Soprano or
tenor) and Piano, I created this arrangement for Viola
& Concert (Pedal) Harp.