Ad ultimas laudes


12 mixed voices

11 mn

On the Litanies de Satan by Charles Baudelaire.

• World premiere: 27/05/1993, Saint-Eustache Church, Paris (France) – Groupe vocal de France, John Pool (cond.).

• Publisher: Gérard Billaudot.

• CD “Musique de chambre” (Chamade 5638).

• CD “Exultet” (Accord/Universal 476 9074).



When, in the spring of 1993, Musique Nouvelle en Liberté commissioned me to write a work for the Groupe Vocal de France, my intuition led me straight to the 'Litanies of Satan' from Charles Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil.

The most obtuse minds pounced on the poem's blasphemous pomp. I, quite the opposite, wanted to bring to light this immense distress of a man who is addressing, in a roundabout way, the Creator, in the form of a long Kyrie, incantatory and sometimes violent.

That perhaps explains the presence of these invocations of the Kyrie theme from the Mass of the Dead in counterpoint, first murmured then proclaimed with increasing insistence, at times even breaking the evolution of the poem and ending alone in an atmosphere of false serenity, punctuated, here and there, by a few satanic whiffs.

For those who know some of my organ improvisations, like the large triptych improvised on the Dies iræ, which I recorded a few months before writing this work, the relation will appear obvious. The whole theme was already present. It now sufficed to just put words to the breathless rhythms, give a Name to the Addressee of these incantations, and bring out, finally, the religious character contained in this romantic fresco.

This was the role of Ad ultimas laudes.

Thierry Escaich
(From the liner notes for the Calliope CD
Translated by John Tyler Tuttle)