Composer: Antonín Leopold Dvořák
Orchestra: Symphonieorchester und Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Conductor: Niklaus Harnoncourt
Number of Discs: 2 SACD-R
Label: RCA Red Seal
Size: 5.09 GB
Dvořák: Stabat Mater, Op. 58
01. Stabat mater dolorosa
02. Quis est homo
03. Eja mater, fons amoris
04. Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
01. Tui nati vulnerati
02. Fac me vere tecum flere
03. Virgo virginum praeclara
04. Fac, ut portem Christi mortem
05. Inflammatus et accensus
06. Quando corpus morietur
Niklaus Harnoncourt conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Symphonieorchester und Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks) along with a quartet of soloists in the Stabat Mater of Antonín Dvořák, possibly the composer’s greatest choral work.
This SACD has a bit of an unusual release history, in that it is not clear it was ever officially released. Sony Japan has apparently explained that the tenor (Piotr Beczala) vetoed the release. Why is unknown, but it has become a bit of a collector’s item.
A Bit of Back Story on This Work, Taken From Here
For Dvorak, the Stabat Mater was a work brought about by personal tragedy of almost incomprehensible proportions. He lost all three of his then living children. In 1875, his young daughter Josefa died at only two days of age. The grieving father began work on the Stabat Mater, as a means of coping with his beloved child’s death. It was to become a work of mourning and a work of healing, for the Stabat Mater is based on an ancient Roman Catholic poem, in Latin, that tells of the Virgin Mary’s grief over the crucifixion of Jesus as she is standing under his cross.
In mid 1876, Dvorak lay aside his work on this piece and then, tragically, on August 13th, 1877, he lost yet another child when 11 month old Ruzena (Rose) accidentally drank a phosphorus solution and died. Overwhelmed by this new loss, Dvorak once more sought solace in the Virgin Mary and took up work on his Stabat Mater once more. Less than one month later, on September 8th, his 3-year old son Otakar died of smallpox, leaving Dvorak and his wife completely childless. They subsequently had other children but at the time, their grief must have been overwhelming. The composer’s only means of emotional survival was by burying himself in his Stabat Mater, completing it on November 13th of that year.
It is a profoundly moving work, perhaps more so than any other of the same name, for it is saturated by the composer’s grief although the grief never overwhelms the piece but rather remains an ever-present background note. Especially haunting is the five-minute Wagnerian orchestral intro. The piece opens quietly on a single note that soon cumulates into a falling melody filled with tragedy when the orchestra gains strength while the melody becomes more intense. After a brief switch to a major key it returns to minor again and then the chorus quietly comes into the picture. The opening movement is extremely long, lasting some quarter of an hour in total, a fifteen minute lament on personal loss, and the second movement builds on themes introduced in this opening movement with its affecting orchestration and melodic inventions.