How to Play Panis Angelicus on the Violin

A brief article on how to play Panis Angelicus in G major on the violin, based on the violin music in the Sacred Melodies for Violin Solo book by Craig Duncan.

Panis Angelicus is a well-known religious song.  It was included on the 2007 Christmas CD of famous crossover artist Josh Groban and also been recorded by Il Divo ad Celtic Woman.  Originally, created by Belgian composer Cesar Frank in 1860, the music was originally written for the Holy Eucharist ceremony of a Catholic service.

For those interested in learning to play the piece, you should first know that it does not require you to be an advanced player.  For those who are comfortable with 3rd position, then the piece most likely will not be overly difficult. 

The initial G in Panis Angelicus can be played in 1st position.  This is advantageous since if it were started in 3rd position and you continued to play the first line of music in that position you would have to move from E on the G string to E an octave higher on the A string. This would mean that you would have to skip over a whole string to play this octave, something which may not feel comfortable for some players.  If you prefer you may be able to start in 3rd position and then move down to 1st position on the sixteeth note E. 

Related to position is the effect that you want to create and the limitations of your instrument. If you feel comfortable playing in third position and shifting to other positions then you may want to play most of the piece in 3rd position.  This may especially be so if your instrument has a nice, strong sonorous sound on the G string or if you want to create an especially solemn sound to the music. 

In the second part of the piece when the music goes up an octave to a B on the E string, shift to third position, if you have not already done so.  To get to the high E soon to follow simply extend your fourth finger.  If this is not practical then shift to fourth position momentarily.  This means that your first finger shifts briefly to the B on the E string.  Definately shift to fourth position when the high E's come toward the end of the piece.  Then return to third position when playing the following C.  To prevent unnessary shifting stay in third position to the end of the piece.


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