Orchestra and Chorus of the Czech National Opera
Premiere: March 22, 2013
The extensive oeuvre of Gioacchino Rossini (1792–1868), comprising thirty-nine operas, one hundred and fifty songs and piano and chamber pieces, only includes two major sacred works: Stabat Mater and the Petite messe solennelle. Rossini was a lukewarm Catholic and savoured all the pleasures of secular life to the full. Nevertheless, when asked by the priest who gave him the last rites whether he was a believer, the dying composer answered: “Would I have been able to write Stabat Mater and the Petite messe solennelle if I had no faith?” Rossini’s Stabat Mater, to a text of a medieval religious sequence attributed to the Franciscan monk Jacopone da Todi and set to music innumerable times by various composers, combines two entirely different compositional styles: Palestrina’s and Pergolesi’s Renaissance church music and splendid Rossini opera arias. The simply treated choral parts (chorus a cappella with the solo bass recitative Eia, Mater, fons amoris) starkly contrast with the operatic style of the solos and duets, such as Quis est homo for soprano and mezzo-soprano, Fac ut portem for mezzo-soprano, the extremely dramatic Inflamatus for soprano and chorus, and the work’s perhaps most celebrated movement, Cuius animam gementem for solo tenor.
Rossini wrote his Stabat Mater to commission for the Archbishop of Madrid Francesco Fernandez Varela, an ardent admirer of his music, whom he had met in 1831 during his trip to Spain. The piece’s genesis, however, is rather complicated: it was created by two composers (Rossini and his friend Giovanni Tadolini) and is connected with a major lawsuit that made the work famous even prior to its being performed in public. In 1841 Rossini replaced the sections written by Tadolini with his own music and the world premiere at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris on 7 January 1842 launched the triumphal journey of Rossini’s Stabat Mater throughout the world. A journey that continues today.
Duration of the concert: 1 hour 10 minutes, no intermission