Antonio Vivaldi

Stabat Mater, hymn for voice, strings & continuo in F minor, RV 621

    Description by Andrew Lindemann Malone

    Antonio Vivaldi had no outlet for composing sacred vocal music at the Ospedale della Pieta, where such music was the responsibility of the choirmaster, until 1713 when the reigning choirmaster quit and was not replaced until 1719. A man of Vivaldi's faith, however, could be expected to seek out opportunities to write such music. He evidently found one in 1711 at the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin at the Chiesa della Pace in Brescia, where he and his father had been invited to play the violin. Following persuasions unknown, the church's music expenditures book details payment for a Stabat Mater composed by Vivaldi in 1712. The Chiesa della Pace rarely commissioned new music and the Stabat Mater was not even a standard text at the time (it was added to the Roman Missal and Breviary in 1727), but Vivaldi's skill as a composer evidently won the day, as one would expect when considering this masterpiece. Vivaldi set 10 of the 20 verses of the Stabat Mater, marking it as a hymn for Vespers, but while every other hymn Vivaldi composed used strict strophic form, here Vivaldi repeated the music from movements 1-3 in movements 4-6, and ended with three movements with new music. However, many of the movements contain thematic resemblances. All nine movements are also cast in F minor except the second and fifth, which are in C minor, and until the "Amen," the fastest tempo in the piece is an Andante. All of these techniques work to sustain an unrelievedly bleak atmosphere suitable to a depiction of Mary's anguish while watching Jesus suffer on the cross. Vivaldi brings out the dark coloring of the male alto voice with spare, sustained accompaniments, falling melodies, and in the C minor movements, extended, almost desperate closing melismas. "Eja Mater," the seventh movement, illustrates Mary's suffering with a whip-like string figure that sounds especially dramatic coming after the repeated music. The cumulative effect is shattering and the sorrowful atmosphere dominates right up to the final chords of the "Amen": a picardy third perhaps suggesting the light that followed the crucifixion. The light here, however, only makes the darkness that has come before seem all the more oppressive.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Stabat mater dolorosa, largo
    2. Cuius animam, adagissimo
    3. O quam tristis, andante
    4. Quis est homo, largo
    5. Quis non posset, adagissimo
    6. Pro peccatis, andante
    7. Eja Mater, largo
    8. Fac ut ardeat, lento
    9. Amen, allegro

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290892037
    2018 Gramola 99165
    2015 ATMA Classique ACD 23016
    2014 L'Oiseau-Lyre / Decca 4786753
    2014 Naïve OP 30558
    2014 Erato 2564625810
    2013 Solo Musica SM 190
    2013 Newton Classics 8802167
    2013 Naïve NC 40019
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94385
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 MDG MDG 6091744
    2012 Decca 4783615
    2012 Decca
    2012 Naïve OP 30541
    2012 Alto ALC 1176
    2011 La Bottega Discantica BDI 169
    2011 Decca
    2011 Warner Classics 699984
    2011 Denon Records
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca 4782747
    2011 Warner Classics 676217
    2011 Apex 2564676218
    2010 BD Jazz / Zebralution
    2010 Decca
    2009 BIS 1546
    2009 Naïve 5212
    2009 Naïve 30488
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951035
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93625
    2008 Brilliant 93169
    2008 Virgin Classics 504381
    2008 Naïve OP 30453
    2007 Analekta 299705
    2007 Harmonia Mundi 2908250
    2007 Naïve 5110
    2007 Warner Classics 4699987
    2006 Naxos 8557852
    2006 Mirare 9968
    2005 Hyperion 44171/81
    2005 Harmonia Mundi 2908193
    2004 Arte Nova 49697
    2004 Early-Music.com EMCCD7757
    2004 Brilliant 92389
    2004 BIS 1426
    2003 Analekta 3171
    2003 Opus 111 30374
    2003 Classic Collection 99920
    2003 Harmonia Mundi 801571
    2002 Brilliant 99396
    2002 Opus 111 30367
    2002 Disques Pierre Verany 730043
    2002 Virgin 45474
    2002 Vox 90109
    2001 Harmonia Mundi 2981571
    2000 Philips / Philips Classics 4681642
    2000 Opus 111 30-261
    2000 Rivoalto 2724
    1999 Solstice Records SO 160
    1999 Philips 432091
    1999 Hyperion CDA66799
    1998 Harmonia Mundi 42722
    1998 Philips 462 170-2PM2
    1997 RCA Victor Red Seal 68606
    1997 Archiv Produktion 453428
    1997 RCA Victor Red Seal 74321 45311-2
    1996 Tuxedo Music 1032
    1996 Harmonia Mundi 901571
    1995 Elysium 705
    1995 Vox 5081
    1994 Dorian 90196
    1994 Disques Pierre Verany 794033
    1994 ASV 137
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 48282
    1990 RCA Victor Red Seal 60240
    1985 Decca 414329
    Brilliant Classics 93625/6
    Koch Discover International 920266
    Arkadia 425
    Erato
    Sony Music Distribution 52522
    Vox 8788
    RCA 60240
    Brilliant Classics 93667/36
    Brilliant 92389/36
    Brilliant 93169/10
    Harmonic Records 8720
    Nuova Era 6877
    L'oiseau-Lyre 414329