Canti prophani by Sabin Pautza: innocent child’s play illustrated through elaborate composition play


Composer Sabin Pautza’s creation, of a style diversity that is rare in the contemporary landscape of Romanian music, stands out through its effervescence and colourfulness, backed by the extraordinary mastery of writing techniques. The work we are referring to in this article, Canti prophani, is a vocal-symphonic suite written for a children’s choir. The suite includes three contrasting miniatures (fast-slow-fast), united through their motif, Maico, Maico..., Dalbe flori and Dimineața ziua bună, representing a translation into music language of the main features of childhood games: repetitive action, rhythm, word play. In terms of language, the children’s choir is assigned only the pure sonority of diatonic modes, while the orchestra overlays harmonic and polyphonic structures that are much more elaborate. The lay character of the lyrics, underlined in the suite’s title, shifts the emphasis from the religious area to that of purity of heart and of sincere joy, the focus being on the high emotions around the feast of Christmas. This brief analytical examination will only highlight the main approaches to the sound material, looking at both archaic influences and at the modern composition techniques, as well as at the manner in which the two blend together. The actual thread that binds all three sections of this work, the image of the mother, occurs everywhere, as the mother is invoked throughout the length of the three parts.

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