The Reverence For Authenticity Inspired a Final 'Stabat Mater'

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The Reverence For Authenticity Inspired a Final 'Stabat Mater'

"Stabat Mater," a 13th century poem written in Latin, begins with the words, "At the cross her station keeping/ Stood the mournful Mother weeping/ Close to Jesus to the last." It is likely that the beautiful poem, sung as a hymn for the Roman Catholic liturgy, was written by Jacopone da Todi, a Franciscan monk.

The poem was set to music by composers of the Renaissance, such as Giovanni da Perluigi Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso, and composers of later years, including Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Franz Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and Antonin Dvorak. One of the most famous versions is that by Gioacchino Rossini, the Italian composer mostly known for his comic operas.

After composing more than two dozen operas, Rossini retired in 1829 at the age of 37 due to ill health. In 1831, however, while living in Paris, he was commissioned by a Spanish priest to compose the music to accompany "Stabat Mater." The priest was also an advisor to the government. At first Rossini was reluctant to accept the commission; he was fighting a lawsuit for the restoration of his artist's pension, which had been cut off during the turmoil in France in 1830. Rossini finally agreed to compose "Stabat Mater," under one condition: that it would not be published.

Rossini, suffering from back pain, composed only half of the intended 12 sections of his "Stabat Mater," sections one and five through nine. Rossini asked Giovanni Tadolini from Bologna to compose the other sections, enabling him to complete the piece on time.

Rossini's "Stabat Mater" premiered in Madrid in 1832. He received a gold tobacco case set with a diamond stone as a reward.

In 1837, the Spanish priest, then near death, broke his promise to Rossini and sold the "Stabat Mater" score to a publisher in Paris. Rossini was furious at the broken promise - partly because he was conscious of the fact that it was not entirely his own work and was thus reluctant to publish it under his name. Before "Stabat Mater" was published, Rossini succeeded in retrieving the score and replaced Tadolini's compositions with his own. Rossini finished "Stabat Mater" in its final form of 10 sections, all his own, in 1841.

Rossini's "Stabat Mater" shows strong operatic tendencies but still manages to be faithful to the poem's tone of reverence.

One of the best recordings of Rossini's "Stabat Mater" is by the London Symphony Chorus and City of London Sinfonia in 1989, under the baton of Richard Hickox. The recording, produced on the Chandos label, boasts a superb, glowing sound and passionate performances by the solo singers.

by Lee Jang-jik

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