Stabat Mater (Rossini)

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Portrait of Gioachino Rossini by Vincenzo Camuccini, Museo Teatrale alla Scala in Milan

Stabat Mater is a work by Gioachino Rossini based on the traditional structure of the Stabat Mater sequence for chorus and soloists. It was composed late in his career after retiring from the composition of opera. He began the work in 1831 but did not complete it until 1841.


In 1831 Rossini was traveling in Spain in the company of his friend the Spanish banker Alexandre Aguado, owner of Château Margaux. In the course of the trip, Fernández Varela, a state councillor, commissioned a setting of the traditional liturgical text, the Stabat Mater. Rossini managed to complete part of the setting of the sequence in 1832, but ill health made it impossible for him to complete the commission. Having written only half the score (nos. 1 and 5–9), he asked his friend Giovanni Tadolini to compose six additional movements. Rossini presented the completed work to Varela as his own. It was premiered on Holy Saturday of 1833 in the Chapel of San Felipe el Real in Madrid, but this version was never again performed.[1][2]

When Varela died, his heirs sold the work for 2,000 francs to a Parisian music publisher, Antoine Aulagnier, who printed it. Rossini protested, claiming that he had reserved publication rights for himself, and disowned Aulagnier's version, since it included the music by Tadolini. Although surprised by this, Aulangier went ahead and arranged for a public performance at the Salle Herz on 31 October 1841, at which only the six pieces by Rossini were performed. In fact, Rossini had already sold the publication rights for 6,000 francs to another Paris publisher, Eugène Troupenas. Lawsuits ensued, and Troupenas emerged the victor. Rossini finished the work, replacing the music by Tadolini, before the end of 1841. The brothers Léon and Marie Escudier, who had purchased the performing rights of Rossini's final version of the score from Troupenas for 8,000 francs, sold them to the director of the Théâtre-Italien for 20,000 francs, who began making preparations for its first performance.[2][3][4]

Rossini's extensive operatic career had divided the public into admirers and critics. The announcement of the premiere of Rossini's Stabat Mater provided an occasion for a wide-ranging attack by Richard Wagner, who was in Paris at the time, not only on Rossini but more generally on the current European fashion for religious music and the money to be made from it. A week before the scheduled concert Robert Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift für Musik carried the pseudonymous essay, penned by Wagner under the name of "H. Valentino", in which he claimed to find Rossini's popularity incomprehensible: "It is extraordinary! So long as this man lives, he'll always be the mode." Wagner concluded his polemic with the following observation: "That dreadful word: Copyright—growls through the scarce laid breezes. Action! Action! Once more, Action! And money is fetched out, to pay the best of lawyers, to get documents produced, to enter caveats.—O ye foolish people, have ye lost your hiking for your gold? I know somebody who for five francs will make you five waltzes, each of them better than that misery of the wealthy master's!"[5] At the time when Wagner wrote this, he was still in his late twenties and he had not yet had much success with the acceptance of his own music in the French capital.[6]

Performance history[edit]

The Stabat Mater was performed complete for the first time in Paris at the Théâtre-Italien's Salle Ventadour on 7 January 1842, with Giulia Grisi (soprano), Emma Albertazzi (mezzo-soprano), Mario (tenor), and Antonio Tamburini (baritone) as the soloists.[3][4] The Escudiers reported that:

Rossini's name was shouted out amid the applause. The entire work transported the audience; the triumph was complete. Three numbers had to be repeated...and the audience left the theater moved and seized by an admiration that quickly won all Paris.[2]

In March Gaetano Donizetti led the Italian premiere in Bologna with great success. The soloists included Clara Novello (soprano) and Nicola Ivanoff [it] (tenor). Donizetti reported the public's reaction:

The enthusiasm is impossible to describe. Even at the final rehearsal, which Rossini attended, in the middle of the day, he was accompanied to his home to the shouting of more than 500 persons. The same thing the first night, under his window, since he did not appear in the hall.[3]

Despite the fact that the work is markedly different from his secular compositions, Northern German critics, as reported by Heinrich Heine in an essay on Rossini, criticised the work as "too worldly, sensuous, too playful for the religious subject."[2] In response the French music historian Gustave Chouquet has remarked that "it must not be forgotten that religion in the South is a very different thing from what it is in the North."[4]


The Stabat Mater is scored for four vocal soloists (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and bass), mixed chorus, and an orchestra of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and strings.

Rossini divided the poem's twenty 3-line verses into ten movements and used various combinations of forces for each movement:

  1. Stabat Mater dolorosa (verse 1) – Chorus and all four soloists
  2. Cujus animam (verses 2–4) – Tenor
  3. Quis est homo (verses 5–6) – Soprano and mezzo-soprano
  4. Pro peccatis (verses 7–8) – Bass
  5. Eja, Mater (verses 9–10) – Bass recitative and chorus
  6. Sancta Mater (verses 11–15) – All four soloists
  7. Fac ut portem (verses 16–17) – Mezzo-soprano
  8. Inflammatus (verses 18–19) – Soprano and chorus
  9. Quando corpus morietur (verse 20) – Chorus and all four soloists
  10. In sempiterna saecula. Amen (not part of the standard text) – Chorus

Written in 1841 for tenor solo, the andantino maestoso section "Cuius animam", with its rollicking and memorable tune, is often performed apart from the work's other movements as a demonstration of the singer's bravura technique.[citation needed] The first theme in "Cujus animam" was also quoted note-for-note in the 1941 Woody Herman jazz number, "Blues on Parade".[7]




  1. ^ Gossett, (1983). p. 55.
  2. ^ a b c d Greenwald, Helen M. (2010). "Gioachino Rossini. 'Stabat Mater'". Boston Symphony Orchestra Program Notes for March 18, 2010 Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Accessed March 17, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Gossett (1983), p. 59. Partial view at Google Books.
  4. ^ a b c Chouquet, Gustave. "Rossini, Gioacchino Antonio" in Maitland (1908) 4: 159. View at Google Books.
  5. ^ Wagner Library: (R. Wagner), "Rossini's Stabat Mater," translated by William Ashton Ellis Archived 2007-10-22 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Deathridge, John; Dahlhaus, Carl (1984). The New Grove Wagner. New York, London: W. W. Norton. pp. 19–24. ISBN 978-0-393-30092-5.
  7. ^ Kriebel, Robert C. (1995). Blue Flame: Woody Herman's Life in Music. Purdue University Press. ISBN 9781557530738.
  8. ^ Dubins, Jerry (2010): "As archival material that documents the accomplishment of one of the great conductors of the 20th century, not to mention the artistry of some of its finest singers, this release will be indispensable to Fricsay collectors. ...sounds a bit constricted, recessed, and muffled in the loudest passages. ...there are quite a few later [recordings] available in far better sound and in performances at least equal to if not superior to this one—Kertész with Lorengar, Minton, Pavarotti, Sotin, and the LSO comes to mind..." Fanfare, Vol. 33 (3), January/February 2010. Accessed July 27, 2010. Subscription required.
  9. ^ Osborne, Richard (1989): "Extant recordings have yet to reach double figures and of those only three—the Giulini/DG, the Muti/EMI, and the deleted 1955 DG recording conducted by Ferenc Fricsay—have any real merit. ... [The Kertész recording] is strongly cast and has the advantage of some dedicated choral contributions from Arthur Oldham's LSO Chorus. But none of this is to much avail when the conducting itself is so perfunctory." Gramophone, July 1989, page 78. [dead link] Accessed July 27, 2010.
  10. ^ Penguin Guide 2008: 2.5 of 4 stars
  11. ^ Re-issued 2011 as part of a 7-CD box "Stabat Mater", DGG 00289 4805010.
  12. ^ Osborne, Richard (1989): "Scimone's conducting ... isn't perfunctory but it is uneven, often distractingly quick, and frequently guilty of a degree of rhythmic regimentation that leaves the soloists unable to breathe or phrase at all adequately. ... [Merritt] understands Rossini's neo-classical heroic style and thus outmanoeuvres Pavarotti (Decca) in the 'Cuius animam'" on
  13. ^ Penguin Guide 2008: 4 of 4 stars, "Key recording", "Rosette"
  14. ^ Stabat Mater WorldCat
  15. ^ a b Jolly, James, ed. (2007). The Gramophone Classical Music Guide 2008, p. 875. ISBN 978-0-86024-962-7. Gramophone Guide 2008: rated 1 of 4 (Strongly recommended)
  16. ^ Naxos 8.554443
  17. ^ Osborne, Richard, (1999): "The conducting is bold and warm-hearted, the soloists accomplished, the recording generous. ... Morandi draws expressive singing from the Hungarian State Opera Chorus in slower, quieter music; elsewhere, the singing is no match for the choral work on rival full-price versions under conductors such as Hickox and Creed."
  18. ^ Osborne, Richard (2000), "Rossini's Stabat mater with opera-house forces — a risky venture or a piece of inspired casting?" p. 99, on Accessed July 27, 2010.
  19. ^ Kasow, Joel (1999), Fanfare: "This may be the first recording of Rossini's Stabat Mater using 'original' instruments, but if the performance is to be so literal and unimaginative, then the result is pointless. out the rival recording on DG by Chung, who shows us what a conductor ... can make of this deceptively simple music." Fanfare 23 (3), January/February 2000. Accessed July 27, 2010. Subscription required.
  20. ^ Kasow, Joel, (2001), "This is a literal reading: The tempos are quite jaunty, with blaring brass instruments more appropriate to the Dies Irae from Verdi's Requiem.... None of the singers is particularly distinctive.... My recommendation remains the Chung recording on DG, though acquaintance with the Fricsay recording (also DG) has its rewards despite the choppy phrasing of the singers." Fanfare Vol. 25 (2), November/December 2001. Accessed 29 July 2010. Subscription required.
  21. ^ Glass, Herbert (2004): "The present production emerges several sizes too large in terms of orchestral and choral weight. ... The numerous CD versions of the Stabat Mater include large-scale affairs such as the present one and those under Kertész, Giulini, Muti, and Chung, and the period editions under Marcus Creed and Christoph Spering, both with accomplished, less hefty solo ensembles and correspondingly smaller orchestral and choral forces. None is without its points of interest, but as overall satisfying encounters with this wonderfully entertaining work, I’ll take the lightweights, first choice being Spering’s (on the Opus 111 label) for its verve and clarity, and for contralto Sara Mingardo’s standout contribution." Fanfare Vol. 27 (3), January/February 2004. Accessed 29 July 2010. Subscription required.


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