In terra pax
Oratorio brève pour soprano, alto, ténor, baryton et basse solos, deux choirs mixtes et orchestre | Short oratorio for soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass, two mixed choirs and orchestra

Year of composition




Scored for

5 soloists (SATBarB), 2 mixed choirs, girls’ choir and orchestra: 2 2 2 2 - 4 2 3 1 - timp. - perc.(5) - cel. - piano(2) - strings
1. Lorsque l’Agneau; Mon Dieu; Malheur au peuple; Éternel, Dieu de mon salut
2. Sentinelle; Mais les ténèbres; Consolez, consolez
3. Voici mon serviteur; Heureux les affligés; Notre Père
4. Puis je vis un nouveau ciel

From this: Notre Père (1973): simplified version of the ‘Our Father’ for choir unisono and piano/organ (English and French)

Publication information

Universal Edition (UE11982…)


It was 1944, and the war continued; Mr. René Dovaz, director of Radio Geneva, asked me to write a piece which would be broadcast immediately after the cessation of hostilities was proclaimed. Naturally, it could only be a religious work. I complied with his request gladly, but perhaps even more with anxiety; I was obliged to confront the images of war and peace and the expression of all the suffering and joy, but also the peoples’ emotions at the moment of that enormous relief, the flash of exhilaration that the wonderful news would unleash. Even more, it was utterly impossible to foresee the form that great event would take. Only one thing was certain; the hostilities would cease. So, in the summer of 1944, I was to evoke the overflowing joy of the longed-for moment amidst the anxiety for the future, the immeasurable sorrow, everywhere the ravages of the war.

I resolved to construct my work out of four sections and to look for suitable texts in the Bible. The first part deals with war itself, which the prophets considered was the consequence of God’s wrath. The second proclaims liberation, the outbreak of joy of a people feeling new hope and life. The third section introduces an entirely new thought: the notion of Christ. It is largely taken from the prophecies of Isaiah, who describes the servant of eternal God as one scorned, as a lamb being led to the slaughter. This text contains answers in the form of Christ’s words concerning the necessity of forgiveness and love, conditions for a true peace. Then the chorus ends with the Lord’s Prayer. The fourth and final part evokes the new Heaven and the new Earth, freed from all worldly matters, where all tears will be dried, where there will be no cries or suffering. It ends with the mystic averment “Holy, holy, holy is God the Lord.”

While composing the oratorio, I do not believe I ever had any illusions about the nature of peace that would follow the war’s end; but that absence of illusion could not restrain me from attempting to express the transition from deepest despair to hope for a shining future. And that meant that, in the words of Christ, I testified to the absolute requirement of forgiveness, without which true peace is inconceivable. But that requirement is so great that its universal acknowledgement on earth is unimaginable without the miracle of complete transformation of human thought and feeling. Therefore, for us, true peace can only be a hope, a determination, a faith, a bridge to an uncertain future – but a future we must imagine, even if we cannot believe in its material and earthly realisation.

Thus, I believed, could the end of the hostilities be celebrated, apart from the completely natural and spontaneous joyful utterances of thousands thronging the streets, their flags waving. To put it one way, the piece is a work for a specific occasion; but I myself have never considered it so. The complexities raised by war and peace are eternal; military wars are not the only kind – and is peace not a constant longing of our souls?

Frank Martin (as published by Universal Edition)


World premiere: Geneva, 7 May 1945 (broadcast), 31 May 1945 (publication): Mad. Dubois, Nelly Grétillat, Ernst Haefliger, Paul Sandoz, Fernando Corena; Ernest Ansermet, conductor

Recordings (selective list)

  • Ursula Buckel, soprano; Marga Höffgen, alto; Ernst Haefliger, tenor; Pierre Mollet, baritone; Jakob Stämpfli, bass
    Union Chorale / Choeur des Dames de Lausanne (Robert Mermoud, chef de choeur)
    Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
    Ernest Ansermet, conductor
    DECCA PY 925 ℗ 1963 + © 2005 (FMS074)

  • Christine Buffle, soprano; Iris Vermillion, alto; Daniel Galvez-Vallejo, tenor; Philippe Rouillon, baritone; Christophe Fel, bass
    Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
    Münchner Rundfunkorchester
    Marcello Viotti, conductor
    Hänssler PH04037 ℗ 2000 + © 2005 (FMS076)

  • Judith Howarth, soprano; Della Jones, alto; Martyn Hill, tenor; Roderick Williams, baritone; Stephen Roberts, bass
    Brighton Festival Chorus
    London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Matthias Bamert, conductor
    CHANDOS CHAN 9465 ℗ + © 1996 (FMS144)

  • Gisela Jurgens, soprano; Marion Meyerolbersleben, alto; Henner Leythe, tenor; Ralf Döring, baritone; Werner Maxin, bass
    Bach Chor/Bach Orchester Wiesbaden
    Klaus Uwe Ludwig, conductor
    MELISMA: Opus 27032 ℗ 1988 (FMS078)

  • Naoko Okada, soprano; Brigitte Balleys, alto; Reinaldo Macias, tenor; Philippe Huttenlocher, baritone; Michel Brodard, bass
    Choir and orchestre of the Gulbankian Foundation
    Michel Corboz, conductor
    CASCAVELLE VEL 1014 ℗ + © 1991 (FMS159)

  • Verena Schweizer, soprano; Elisabeth Graf, alto; Markus Schäfer, tenor; Rudolf Hillebrand, baritone; Nikolaus Hillebrand, bass
    Ludger Lohmann, organ
    Domkantorei Altenberg / Kölner Kantorei
    Basel Sinfonietta
    Volkert Hempfling, conductor
    URSINA MOTETTE CD 40141 ℗ 1993 (FMS160)

  • Notre Père
    East Carolina University Chamber Singers
    Andrew Scanlon, organ
    James Franklin, conductor
    GOTHIC ℗ + © 2021

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