Stabat Mater, G. B. Pergolesi
Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi ranks among the most popular renditions of the Latin sacred text by the Franciscan monk Jacopone da Todi. Despite his young age, the Italian Baroque composer seems to have touched divinity with this major musical project, which would tragically be his last. He succumbed to tuberculosis in 1736, but not before completing the score, destined to become his magnum opus. At St Paul’s Within the Walls Church in Rome, two contra-tenors take on the formidable task of recreating the suffering and lamentation of the Holy Mother as wonderfully penned by Pergolesi. A solo violoncello and the Baroque Orchestra ‘I furiosi affetti’ complete the ensemble and provide an authentic, moving accompaniment. Apart from Pergolesi’s masterpiece, this Easter concert also includes instrumental works by Giovanni Felice Sanchez, Salvatore Lanzetti, and Domenico Gabrieli.
In his final work, Pergolesi utilised his fine sense for melody and counterpoint. Thus, his Stabat Mater ranks easily among the high points of late Italian Baroque, and its twelve movements are as immersive and impressive as its powerful source text. The score combines in itself a brilliant and almost operatic quality with the sombre, sorrowful atmosphere of the theme. The different parts gravitate around the main key of F minor, with occasional excursions to E-flat Major and B-flat Major that provide moments of temporary relief and hopefulness before the inevitable return of lament and desperation as signalled by the minor keys. The final “Amen!” returns to the home tonality and signals the end of this most devastating ordeal, a mother watching her child perish.
Stabat Mater by G. B. Pergolesi is a singularly moving performance. At St Paul’s Within the Walls Church, this Baroque masterpiece comes alive. Thanks to Pergolesi’s musical invention and the talented performers’ dedication, the piece comes to embody the human and the divine suffering of the Holy Mother. Its grace and impact move it beyond the traditional religious context and let it speak to all humans willing to open their hearts to the motherly grief and to the heavenly melodies that came from under the composer’s pen. This Holy Week in Rome be prepared for a transformative musical journey!