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Stabat Mater - Pergolesi

Stabat Mater - Pergolesi cover picture

St Albans Abbey Girls Choir Emma Kirkby Catherine Denley London Baroque

Director: Simon Johnson
O Euchari Hildegard of Bingen

Stabat Mater Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Stabat mater dolorosa
Cujus animam gementem
O quam tristis et afflicta
Quae moerebat et dolebat

Quis est homo
Vidit suum dulcem natum
Eja mater fons amoris
Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
Sancta mater, istud agas
Fac ut portem Christi mortem
Inflammatus et accensus
Quando corpus morietur

O mysterium ineffabile Jean François Lallouette

Serve bone Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Pulchra es Marc-Antoine Charpentier

O bone Jesu Richard Dering

In nomine Jesu Jan Baptist Verrijt

Ut queant laxis Claudio Monteverdi

Confitebor Terzo alla Francese Claudio Monteverdi

Total playing time 63m 42s

Stabat Mater - Pergolesi

Stabat Mater

O Euchari Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Abbess Hildegard of Bingen was born to noble parents in Beresheim, near Alzey, Rheinhessen. At the age of eight she was put into the care of Jutta of Spanheim, who she eventually succeeded as Abbess of a small community of nuns attached to the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg, near Bingen (about 25 miles west of Mainz). In 1141 she saw tongues of flame descend from the heavens and settle upon her, inspiring her to devote her life to intense creativity – as visionary, naturalist, playwright, poetess and composer. Her Symphonie armonie celestium revelationum (‘the symphony of the harmony of celestial revelations’) contains some of the finest songs ever written in the middle ages. O Euchari was almost certainly written for the clergy at Trier; St Eucharius was a third century missionary who became Bishop of the city.

Stabat Mater Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)

The Stabat Mater is a Latin hymn thought to have been written by the Franciscan friar Jacapone da Todi in about 1300. In keeping with medieval practice and unlike the classical verse of Virgil and Ovid which relies on metre, the poem is written in a simple rhyming scheme (AAB), inviting the composer to set each line with a different "affect". At the time at least three other similar texts were in general use: Stabat mater speciosa (a Christmas hymn), Stabat juxta Christi crucem (for Holy Week) and Stabat virgo mater Christi. These were removed from the Liturgy by the Council of Trent (1543-1563) and revived by Pope Benedict in 1727 for use on the Feast of the Seven Dolours (September 15th), although Domenico Scarlatti’s ten-part setting (c.1715) predates this ruling. Further settings by Alessandro Scarlatti and Pergolesi soon followed, using soprano and alto soloists with an accompaniment of two violins, viola and basso continuo. Later eighteenth century settings were more extravagant, and the tradition continued, via Haydn and Mozart, to Verdi in his Quattro pezzi sacri and to our own day – with settings by Szymanowski, Berkeley, Poulenc and Penderecki. The poem itself is essentially meditative. Rather than sympathise with the saviour himself, the listener is invited to share the sorrows and tears of the grieving mother, thus drawing on the human aspect of the crucifixion story.

It is traditionally thought that the Stabat Mater was Pergolesi’s last work, being completed a few days before his death at the young age of 26. New research has shed some doubt on this claim, and it seems more likely that the piece was composed over a longer period of time; but there is every reason to hold on to the romantic notion that this is nevertheless a most personal work, since it definitely broke new ground in the field of sacred music by essentially being based upon a very personal experience of religion. It is now thought that the man who commissioned the work was Marzio IV Carafa, Duke of Maddoloni, (in whose service Pergolesi spent the last two years of his life), perhaps acting as an intermediary between the composer and the Most Noble Order of the Knights of Our Lady of the Sorrows in Naples. Tradition certainly has it that the work was performed there every Friday in March at the Franciscan church of San Luigi di Palazzo (the church connected to the Royal Palace, where the knights worshipped). Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater soon attracted widespread acclaim, being performed all over Europe, and in many different editions.

O mysterium inneffabile - Jean François Lallouette (1651-1728)

Lallouette was one of the most highly respected musicians of his day. A pupil of Lully, the early part of his career was spent working for his master at the Opera in Paris. A falling out between the two over Lully’s opera Isis led to Lallouette’s dismissal and subsequently he spent the next phase of his career doing various jobs in Paris and in Italy, picking up various musical influences that informed his later music along the way. In 1697 he became Choirmaster at Rouen Cathedral, before taking up a similar position at Notre Dame de Paris in 1700. Claiming fatigue, he was released in 1716 but was reinstated in 1718 after asserting that his music was not being well-performed! O mysterium ineffabile is a very beautiful motet that owes much to the music of Lalande.

Serve bone Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1636-1704)

Little is known about Charpentier’s early years, but one of the earliest references is a key one: we know that he spent three years in Rome, thoroughly immersing himself in mid seventeenth-century Italian music. All of the musical posts that he occupied upon his return to Paris required him to write sacred music: for private chapels (Mademoiselle de Guise & the Dauphin), churches (St Louis & the Sainte Chapelle) and various convents. Charpentier’s motets, more than 200 in total, are incredibly diverse in style and media. It seems likely that these two pieces are amongst several motets that Charpentier composed to be sung by the nuns of the Port-Royal de Paris. The text of Serve bone is from Matthew 25.21.

O bone Jesu chorus Richard Dering (c.1580-1630)

Recent scholarship suggests that Dering was trained in England before converting to Catholicism later. There is certainly evidence of his having spent some time in Rome and Venice as a young man. Like many English Catholics of his time he opted to live abroad, working as organist of the convent of English nuns in Brussels. In 1625 he was appointed organist to Queen Henrietta Maria soon after her marriage to Charles I, becoming ‘musician for the lutes and voices’ to the king in the same year. O bone Jesu comes from the Cantica Sacra, an especially popular collection in England after 1625. Apparently these motets were amongst Cromwell’s favourite music.

In Nomine Jan Baptist Verrijt (c.1610-1650)

Jan Baptist Verrijt (1610-1650) was, alongside Sweelinck, considered to be one of the foremost Dutch musicians of the age. He began his career as Organist of St Pieterskerk at Oirschot, near Eindhoven. In 1636 he was appointed organist of St Pieterskerk, Louvain, and at the same time became one of the city musicians; when his salary was raised the magistrates described him as an ‘organist very capable in the art’. In 1640 he became city carillonneur and organist of St Janskerk, Hertogenbosch, for which he converted to Protestantism. From March 1644 until his death he was Organist of St Laurenskerk, Rotterdam, and it was in this last phase of his life that he produced his Flammae divinae, op 5 (1649) which comprises 2 concerted masses and 18 motets, of which In nomine is no.18. The work is dedicated to Dr Guiliemo Bom, probably a citizen of Rotterdam. The text is taken from Phillipians 2.10-11.

Ut queant laxis Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)

Ut queant laxis is contained within Monteverdi’s monolithic collection Selva morale e spirituale of 1641, one of the main fruits of Monteverdi’s thirty years as maestro di cappella at St Mark’s, Venice. It is headed ‘Himnus Sancti Joannis sopra lo stesso metro’ (Hymn of St John in the same metre), being musically the same as the preceding item in the collection, Iste confessor; it is likely that other hymns of the same metre may also have been sung to this music. Ut queant laxis is the office hymn for the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. It is significant in musical history because the opening syllables of each half line give ut, re, mi, fa, sol and la, and this corresponded to the notes on which the syllable was sung in the plainsong version.

Confitebor tibi Claudio Monteverdi

The somewhat unusual character of Confitebor tibi Domine (Terzo alla Francese) can be attributed to the way in which it reworks two madrigals in the French style from Monteverdi’s Eighth book of 1638. Although scored for soprano solo, choir and continuo, Monteverdi explains in a note that it can be performed with ‘four violin family instruments, leaving the solo part to a solo voice’; for this performance we have divided up the vocal line so that there are additional dialogue effects. At the ‘Gloria Patri’ there is a most remarkable burst of virtuosity from the soprano. The text is from Psalm 111.

St Albans Abbey Girls Choir

In January 1996 a group of 25 girls aged 7-15 and from many different backgrounds came together to form the St Albans Abbey Girls Choir. 2006 marks their tenth anniversary, and this recording is a celebration of all that has been achieved during that time. The raison d’être of the choir is the office of evensong on Wednesdays and Fridays – these had formerly been plain days with no music. In reality the choir has developed an ever more dynamic role both within and outside the Cathedral, taking on more service work in the busy seasons and having become increasingly in demand to give concerts both at home and abroad.

The choir have performed evensong on BBC Radio 3 and appeared twice on BBC Songs of Praise. They have already made two highly acclaimed CD recordings – Awake my Soul and Lo the full, final sacrifice – both on the Lammas label. In the last few years they have undertaken a complete performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, sung to HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and toured the USA. This recording came about following a concert in May 2004 featuring the same performers and much of the same repertoire that attracted a sell-out audience and rave reviews. A hugely popular annual feature of the Cathedral’s Christmas festivities is the choir’s performance of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols on Christmas Eve, and on Boxing Day, 2004 they broadcast several movements of the work on BBC Radio 4.
Primarily an upper-voice choir, an important feature in recent years has been the performance of contemporary works for the genre, and several composers have written music especially for the group; some very successful collaborations have resulted in highly original material being created particularly with girls’ voices in mind. In addition, the choir regularly performs repertoire written specifically for female voices, particularly early music that has recently been rediscovered.

As there is no choir school (the girls are drawn from a variety of different schools in the area) the choir’s busy schedule is made possible by the support of the girls’ parents, and a tremendous amount of hard work and concentration on the part of the girls (aged 7-14) themselves. During the past ten years this has seen a real sense of community grow both within and around the choir and this has become one of its most prized assets.

Immediate plans at the time of this CD’s release include a tour to the Netherlands and the performance of a newly commissioned anthem as part of the choir’s tenth anniversary celebrations.

For details of the music and service schedule at St Albans Cathedral, please visit the website.

Emma Kirkby

"For two decades Emma Kirkby’s clear, agile voice has epitomised the pure sound of early music" (Toronto Globe and Mail). As a soloist she performs throughout the world, appearing with an ever-widening circle of orchestras and chamber ensembles, including the Academy of Ancient Music, London Baroque, the Age of Enlightenment and Tafelmusik. In addition to her solo work she sings frequently in her duo partnership with lutenist Anthony Rooley as well as performing and recording vocal chamber music with the Consort of Musicke.

Her recording output is quite prolific, numbering by now well over 100 records. Recent recordings include a disc of Handel’s Latin Motets and one of Scarlatti’s Christmas music with London Baroque.

The incisive intelligence, as well as the uniquely beautiful voice and brilliant musicianship which she brings to her performances, makes hearing Emma Kirkby an experience not to be missed.

Catherine Denley

Catherine Denley has devoted most of her long and successful career to the oratorio repertoire. She studied at Trinity College of Music, and after a brief time with the BBC Singers embarked on a solo career which has taken her all over the world. She has worked with all the major British orchestras.

Notable highlights have included the premiere of Europera by John Cage in London, Paris and Berlin; Britten’s Spring Symphony with Kent Nagano; Handel’s Messiah with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Festival; Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Sir John Eliot Gardiner in Japan. More recently she has sung Schumann’s Scenes from Faust with him in New York and the Proms.

Catherine Denley has over 50 recordings to her credit – a wide-ranging repertoire from Monteverdi to Bruckner, Copland, Messiaen and contemporary composers.

London Baroque

London Baroque was formed in 1978 and is regarded worldwide as one of the foremost exponents of baroque chamber music, enabling its members to devote their professional lives to the group. A regular 50 or so performances a year has given the group a cohesion and professionalism akin to that of a permanent string quartet. Their repertoire spans a period from the end of the 16th century up to Mozart and Haydn with works of virtually unknown composers next to familiar masterpieces of the baroque and early classical eras. The ensemble gives regular performances in concert halls and on television all over the world including, this season, a series of concerts across Europe with Emma Kirkby.

London Baroque’s extensive recording output includes the complete trios of Corelli, Handel, Lawes, Purcell and CPE Bach and the complete string music of Pachelbel. Recent recordings include Christmas music and Handel motets with Emma Kirkby, and Bach’s trio sonatas. They are currently recording a series of trio sonata discs from England, France, Italy and Germany.

Simon Johnson

Born in Peterborough in 1975, Simon Johnson was a chorister and subsequently Head Chorister of Peterborough Cathedral Choir and then went on to hold organ scholarships at Rochester, Norwich and St Paul’s Cathedrals. He holds the organ diplomas of the Royal College of Organists, having won several major prizes in each.

In 1998 Simon was appointed Director of Music at All Saints’ Church in Northampton, where his work involved running the choir of men and boys, and also the separate girls’ choir. During this time the choirs toured France, Italy and Germany and made two CD recordings.

Since being appointed Assistant Master of Music and Director of the Abbey Girls Choir at St Albans Cathedral in 2001, he has accompanied the Cathedral Choir on trips to Haarlem and Angers, performed on BBC television and radio, and on two CD recordings. With the girls’ choir he has given premieres of many works, toured the USA, and made a CD recording – Lo the full final sacrifice – which has attracted widespread critical acclaim. Simon has a keen interest in the art of organ improvisation, and he recently improvised an entire concert of meditations for Holy Week which was recorded live and has now been released on Lammas Records (Purple).

The Organ

The organ was built and supplied by the organ builder Vincent H M Woodstock of Redbourn, Hertfordshire. The Woodstock Cabinet Continuo Organ is an instrument for the most discerning musician. The organ is built to the very highest standards of English craftsmanship by a builder of over thirty years experience of building new mechanical action pipe organs.

This instrument is made with a solid English Oak case with fretted oak pipe screens above the three fields of front pipes. The organ has three stops: a Stopped Diapason 8’, made in pine, a Flute 4’, in plain metal, - stopped pipes C1 – b24, open pipes c25 – g56, and a Principal 2’, in 70% tin. The first 21 pipes of this stop are those found in the three field prospect. The keyboard is transposable from A440 to A415. In this recording A415 was used tuned to Vallotti temperament. The natural keys are covered with Boxwood and the sharps made in Rosewood. The whole instrument is placed on castors for easy moving. Telescopic carrying handles are also at each end of the instrument. The organ comes complete with matching blower cabinet and stool.

Recorded in the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban on 14th to 16th February and 11th May 2005 by kind permission of Andrew Lucas (Master of the Music) and the Dean and Chapter

Produced by Matthew O’Donovan and Andrew Lucas
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews