St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Schubert. Szymanowski. Mozart

Third concert of the thirteenth subscription

Franz Schubert
Stabat Mater in C Minor

Karol Szymanowski
Stabat Mater
Soloists: Marina Shaguch (soprano), Lyubov Sokolova (mezzo-soprano), Vladimir Moroz (baritone)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Grand Mass in C Minor
Soloists: Olga Trifonova (soprano), Irina Vasilieva (mezzo-soprano), Alexander Timchenko (tenor), Ilya Bannik (bass)

The eighteen-year-old Schubert worked on his Stabat Mater in G Minor for chorus, orchestra and organ over three days: from 4 to 6 April 1815. This was his first work with the text of the Catholic Sequence, written back in the 13th century by Jacopone da Todi. For his work, modest in scale, the composer took only the first, tragic lines of the text telling of the anguish of the Virgin Mary on Golgotha. By that time, Schubert already had sound experience in the sphere of church music – both as a singer and as a writer, having spent three years “flexing his muscles” in spiritual composition (in terms of its scale his spiritual legacy is comparable with Mozart’s).
The Stabat Mater in G Minor opens with a gloomy introduction performed by the clarinets and the bassoons. Subsequently the timbre of the trombones, traditionally used in funereal music, can be made out in the small orchestra. For his Stabat Mater, Antonio Salieri’s young pupil selected a style typical for Italian spiritual compositions of the time, although at moments of culmination one can clearly see the unique personality of the future composer of romantic songs and symphonies.


Stabat Mater for soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra is one of Karol Szymanowski’s greatest works. The idea behind this vast, six-part cantata came to the composer in 1925, actual work on the piece lasting from 20 January to 2 March 1926. The premiere of the Stabat Mater took place on 11 January 1929 in Warsaw.
The Roman Catholic sequence Stabat Mater was written in the early 13th century by Jacopone da Todi. It is a beautiful, inspired image of free spiritual poetry from the Middle Ages. The twenty verses in Latin are dedicated to the sufferings of the Virgin Mary and to prayers to her on the gift of the life everlasting and heavenly glory.
Szymanowski set to music the Latin texts in Polish translation by Josef Jankowski. At the composer’s request, in Poland his Stabat Mater was to be performed in Polish, and in Latin in the rest of the world.
The work emerged during Poland’s first years of independence on a wave of national euphoria. And so in the music of the Stabat Mater there are folkloric elements (a result of the composer’s travels to the Tatra Mountains) untypical for Szymanowski, an aesthete and symbolist. They lie side by side with elements of medieval music – in the text of the Roman Catholic sequence the 20th century composer saw a naive primordial nature of emotions and the archaic, lovingly retained in Jankowski’s translation.


The Grand Mass in C Minor was composed in 1782 and was the last of numerous masses composed by Mozart starting when he was ten years of age. The work appeared in accordance with a promise given by the composer when his fiancée Constanze was ill. The first performance of three of the movements of the mass – Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus – took place on 26 August 1783 at St Peter’s in Salzburg (Constanze sang the soprano part). The movements Credo and Agnus Dei were not yet finished, and Mozart was not to finish the work at a later date. The probable reason was the politics of Emperor Josef  II regarding church music, which bore the motif “The simpler the music the more it corresponds to Christian humility and reverence”. In 1783 specifically, the use of musical instruments was strictly limited. For such monumental works as the Grand Mass, the prospects were not good. Instead, Mozart used the music of the mass in the oratorio Davidde Penitente.
Many sections of the Große Messe bear witness to the influence of spiritual music by Bach and Handel, while in other sections inspiration carries Mozart far from the old tradition. Of the Christe Eleison, Hermann Abert wrote “The solo soprano brings to mind compassion for Christ with the heart overflowing in ecstasy… The tremendous galloping and the abundance of coloratura betray a dangerous proximity to Italian opera.”


Anna Bulycheva

Age category 6+

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