Wednesday 22 February 2017 at 20:30
Saint Joseph Jesuit Church


Nestan Meboniya, soprano
Alessandra Volpe, mezzo
Giulio Pelligra, tenor
Goderzi Janelidze, bass
Choir of the Serbian National Theatre
Al Bustan Festival Orchestra
Gianluca Marcianὸ, conductor

The Stabat Mater describes the suffering of Mary, mother of Jesus, as her son is crucified. Rossini’s Stabat Mater combines two entirely different styles of composition: traditional church music in the Renaissance manner of Palestrina and Pergolesi, and arias that would not sound out of place in a typical Rossini opera. It was described as “noble, simple and severe.”

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Gioachino Rossini (1792 –1868)

Stabat Mater
Recognising where Rossini’s talents lay, Beethoven told him “never attempt to compos anything but opera buffa; any attempt to succeed in another style would be to do violence to your nature”. Nevertheless Rossini composed many non-operatic, indeed non vocal works. It is unlikely that Rossini had any intention to write a Stabat Mater; he very much admired Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and did not feel he was able to equal that. The decision to try came, in 1831-32, as a result of a plea from Spanish prelate, Fernandez Varela, who wished an original Rossini manuscrit.
Rossini agreed and was given a handsome gift in exchange. It was also agreed that under no circumstances was the score to be published: it was considered to be a gift, and no bill of sale was exchanged. Rossini had good reason for not allowing publication of the score: he was in litigation with the Paris Opera and after writing movements 1 and 5 to 9 of the eventual 10 movement work, he had a lumbago attack and gave the score to the Bologna composer, Giovanni Tadolini, to complete.
Thus the score that Varela received was only partly Rossini. It was heard once in that form, on Good Friday in Madrid in 1833. In 1837 Varela died and the score found its way into the hands of the Paris publisher, Aulignier, who asked Rossini for permission to publish it. Rossini forbade any publication or performance of the score as it stood and eventually supplied another publisher, Troupenas, with a complete all-Rossini score. The first public performance was held on January 1842 in the Salle Vantadour, Paris. The fact that the performance was not in a church was a statement in itself. This was a religious music belonging to the secular. It proved an immediate success and more performances followed. In France and Italy the Stabat Mater met with tremendous success. The first Italian performance was entrusted to Rossini’s friend, Donizetti.

But for more northern non-Latin countries the reception was less effusive. It was found too worldly, too playful and too sensuous for the religious subject. Even now it has not entirely overcome this stigma. Yet this is its importance.Written by a man not overcome by religious fervor not imbued with puritan ideals, and, although written late in the composer’s life, not written under a foreboding of death, it follows a natural evolution from the simpler, less sensuous predecessors to the more dramatic, more worldly; Rossini was pinoneering what was to come.
The scale is very much greater than the Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, which calls for only two soloists and a small orchestra. Rossini’s Stabat Mater heralds the immense proportions of Verdi compositions which were to follow.
Two movements of Rossini’s Stabat Mater are a capella, “Eja, Mater, fons amoris” and “Quando corpus morietur”. They were much admired by Wagner in later years. Verdi was very imptressed with “Inflammatus et accensus” and his Requiem is inspired by this movement.

The Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time. It is based on the Simon prophecy that a sword was to pierce the heart of Mary, Mother of Jesus. The hymn, sung on Good Friday, set originally to a Gregorian melody, became popular in the 13th century during the peak of Franciscan devotion to the crucified Jesus. The chant has been attributed to Pope Innocent III (d. 1216), St Bonaventure, or more commonly, to Jacopone da Todi (1230 – 1306), who is most probably the true author. Jacopone da Todi was of noble birth but a little mad and gave all his possessions to the poor, dressed himself in rags and joined the Third Order of St. Francis. He refused to be ordained and, in order to prove his sanity, wrote popular hymns. He has been beatified by the Church and is remembered on 22 December. His epitaph reads “here lie the bones of Blessed Jacopone dei Benedetti da Todi, Friar Minor, who, having gone mad with love of Christ, by a new artifice deceived the world and took Heaven by violence.

The Stabat Mater, a source of inspiration
The Stabat Mater has been a source of inspiration for composers since medieval times. Several composers have written more than one version of Stabat Mater.
Mozart composed a Stabat Mater at the age of 10 (unfortunately lost) and Schubert at the age of 18.
There are over 500 versions of Stabat Mater including those of Palestrina (1590), Caldara (1725), Pergolese (1736), Bach (1748), Haydn (1767), Boccherini (1781 & 1800), Lizst (1866), Verdi (1898), Szymanowski (1926).
Dvorak Stabat Mater, composed after the death of his litte daughter was first performed in Prague in 1880.