Giovanni Pergolesi

Stabat mater, for soprano, alto, strings & organ in F major

    Description by Timothy Dickey

    Quis est homo? "Who is he that would not weep, to see the mother of Christ in such despair?" These words were first uttered in thirteenth century Italy in an affective and emotional Latin deovtional lyric; the obvious answer to its rhetorical question is that no true believer would not mourn with the Virgin over the dying Christ. The poem is the "Stabat mater," thought to be the work of the great Lauda-poet Jacopone da Todi. Its plangent strophes affect an emotional connection between the meditating believer and the mother of the Crucified, and first emerged from the intense strains of popular devotion following the Black Plague. In the eighteenth century, however, the text took on new life in popular devotional practice through the influence of one musical setting: the Stabat mater dolorosa of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.

    The Roman Catholic Church officially added the "Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin" to its calendar in 1727, but the "Stabat mater" text was already ensconsed in many local liturgies. According to Pergolesi's first biographer, a famous monastery in Naples comissioned a musical setting of the text from the great Alessandro Scarlatti in 1725. Soon thereafter, they sought a new setting from Pergolesi mandating that he had to compose for two high voices (sopranos or male castrati). He accepted the task, despite his then-current illness: the 25-year-old Pergolesi was already suffering from the tuberculosis that would claim his life. The legend goes that he composed in a devotional frenzy on his deathbed. Whether or not the story was true, Pergolesi's Stabat mater was quickly an international hit, drawing inevitable comparisons to Mozart's deathbed Requiem. This cantata was published more often than any other single piece of music in the entire eighteenth century.

    Musically, Pergolesi sets the successive tercets of his poetic text to alternating duets and arias. From the very opening measures, he carefully sets a mournful affect. The violins (answered later by the vocal duet) open with a drawn-out chain of suspensions and a painfully extended pedal tone. Later movements similarly use overtly "sad" musical devices: the second duet features strong dissonant clashes for "O quam tristis et afflicta," and the third appears above a chromatically descending bass line. Surprisingly, however, Pergolesi also includes several arias that clothe the mournful text in much lighter musical raiment; he was, after all, the famed composer of light opera interludes (including La serva padrona).

    Parts/Movements

    1. Stabat Mater
    2. Cuius animam
    3. O quam tristis
    4. Quae moerebat
    5. Quis est homo
    6. Vidit suum dulcem Natum
    7. Eia Mater
    8. Fac ut ardeat
    9. Sancta Mater
    10. Fac ut portem
    11. Inflammatus et accensus
    12. Quando Corpus morietur
    13. Amen

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290890419
    2017 CPO 5551032
    2017 Harmonia Mundi HMM 907589
    2017 Decca 4831252
    2016 ABC Classics ABC 4812730
    2016 Rondeau / Rondeau Productions ROP 6114
    2016 Concerto CNT 2097
    2016 Oehms Classics OC 011
    2016 Sony Classical 88985369642
    2016 Das Alte Werk 557839
    2015 MDG MDG 90218766
    2015 Edition Lilac EL 1511082
    2015 Alpha ALPHA 308
    2014 Tudor Records 7166
    2014 L'Oiseau-Lyre / Decca 4786753
    2014 Naïve OP 30558
    2013 Regent REGCD 397
    2013 Berlin Classics 0300543BC
    2013 Decca 4784029
    2013 Naïve NC 40024
    2013 Erato / Warner Classics 537899
    2013 Erato 3191472
    2013 Elatus 460441
    2012 Decca
    2012 Decca 4783589
    2012 Naxos 8578210
    2012 Naxos 8501062
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94412
    2012 Decca
    2012 Oehms Classics OC 831
    2012 Capriccio Records C 5130
    2012 Naïve V 5313
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94385
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94211
    2011 Classic FM
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon B0015444
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4778857
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 477 933-7
    2011 Warner Classics 699984
    2010 Dooload. De / Zebralution
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 902072
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94032
    2010 Archiv Produktion / Deutsche Grammophon 4778464
    2010 Archiv Produktion / Archive
    2010 Channel Classics 29810
    2009 Arte Verum 007
    2009 RCA Victor 61847
    2009 Berlin Classics 0184762
    2009 Virgin Classics
    2009 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099968635
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93262
    2009 Archiv Produktion 4778077
    2009 Archiv Produktion
    2009 House of Classics 220108
    2009 EMI Music Distribution 98385
    2009 Teldec / Warner Classics & Jazz 256469258
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951560
    2008 Decca 4756060
    2008 TON 4 / Zebralution
    2008 Berlin Classics 0115112
    2007 Naïve OP 30441
    2007 Archipel 0369
    2007 Erato / Warner Music 3984281722
    2007 Proprius-AudioSource PRSACD2040
    2007 Naïve 5110
    2007 Warner Classics 4699987
    2007 Urania URN 22323
    2006 Musica Di Angeli 99181
    2006 Tactus 711603
    2006 Jade / Milan
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 459183
    2006 Virgin / Virgin Classics 0946363340
    2006 Mirare 6
    2006 Naxos 8557447
    2006 Decca 000660302
    2005 Guild 7291
    2005 Brilliant Classics 92330
    2005 Naïve 30406
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 56174
    2005 Berlin Classics 0010472
    2005 Berlin Classics 1256
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000477202
    2004 St. Clair 507
    2004 St. Clair 90862
    2004 Alpha Productions 009
    2003 Hungaroton 12201
    2003 Classical Express 3951119
    2003 Classic Collection 99836
    2003 Opus 111 30374
    2003 Elatus 2564604412
    2001 Amadeus 7014
    2000 Harmonia Mundi HMA1951119
    2000 Rainbow Classics 9709
    1999 Dutton Laboratories 2CDAX2005
    1999 Arte Nova Classics 74321654202
    1999 Decca 466134
    1999 Disques Pierre Verany 730095
    1999 Archiv Produktion 4594542
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 2908033
    1998 Opus 111 30160
    1997 Virgin 45291
    1997 London 455017
    1997 RCA Victor Red Seal 68606
    1997 Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 583
    1996 Harmonia Mundi 290829
    1996 Ades 20480
    1996 Harmonia Mundi 1901119
    1995 Lotos 13
    1995 Elysium 705
    1995 Auvidis 128556
    1995 Astree 8556
    1995 Capriccio Records 10517
    1995 Naxos 550766
    1995 Gega New 153
    1995 Vox 5081
    1994 Dorian 90196
    1994 Teldec 76989
    1993 Decca
    1993 Decca 436209
    1993 Harmonia Mundi 2901119
    1993 RCA 902661215
    1993 Harmonia Mundi 3903011
    1992 London 433802
    1992 Decca / London 433470
    1989 L'Oiseau-Lyre 425692
    1988 Archiv Produktion 4271232
    1988 Hyperion CDA20294
    1988 Hyperion 66294
    1985 Deutsche Grammophon 415103
    Fone 9321
    Accord 200062
    EMI Music Distribution 54845
    Il Sabato 2
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 73
    Epic 761638
    St. Clair 90842
    All Russia
    Teldec
    Erato
    Erato
    Ton 4
    Fone 9829
    Fonit-Cetra Records 73
    Harmonia Mundi 290830
    Hungaroton 12201
    As Disc 5100
    Denon Records 78904
    Warner Fonit 81276
    Gega 153
    Adda 581016
    Musica Di Angeli 99183
    Brilliant Classics 93952
    RCA 61215
    Erato 55046
    Decca 421645
    St. Clair 51342