Pan et Sirinx
for soprano (c'-g''), violin or oboe or flute, viol and bc
Pan et Sirinx is the fourth in the second book of Montéclair's cantatas.
The story of Pan et Sirinx is taken from Book 1 of the Metamorphoses of Ovid: Syrinx is a hamadryad or wood-nymph who is devoted to Diana, and to chastity. When Pan the pastoral god, usually depicted as being half-man, half-goat sees her, he falls instantly in love. Syrinx immediately flees from this threat to her virginity. When Pan is on the point of catching her, she plunges into the river and appeals to the local deities for help. The river-god Ladon, said to be her father, transforms her into reeds. Pan declares that the reeds and the music that they make as the wind whistles through them shall be a perpetual remembrance of the lovely Syrinx, and the Pan-pipes shall be effective in the wooing of lovers.
The cantata depicts Syrinx, like her mistress Diana, happy and fancy-free. Like Diana she goes hunting. Before the recitative which tells of Syrinx setting off at dawn, is a magical duo for the violin and viol; to this I have rather fancifully given the title L’Aurore. The hunt is then portrayed in a lively and protracted air in which the oboe stands in for the hunting horn. The following recitative tells the story of her escape from Pan, and her metamorphosis. This is followed by a tender lament by Pan accompanied by either the violin or the flute. This movement was printed in ‘void’ notation, possibly to indicate that the triple time is not in this case implying a brisk tempo, but rather the opposite. It was decided not to retain this notation, and the air has been duly transcribed into the equivalent black notation. The final air is a joyful hymn to love.