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Antonín Dvořák – Stabat mater – original version

Antonín Dvořáks "Stabat mater" in the rarely heard original version of 1876 with piano accompaniment. It is sung by the Bavarian Radio Chorus conducted by Howard Arman, accompanied on the piano by Julius Drake.

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Antonin Dvořák

Stabat mater

Version of 1876 for soloists, choir and piano, op. 58

Julia Kleiter soprano
Gerhild Romberger alto
Dmitry Korchak tenor
Tareq Nazmi bass 

Julius Drake piano

Bavarian Radio Chorus
Howard Arman conductor

Live recording from the Prinzregententheater Munich

About the work The “Stabat mater” by the Bohemian composer Antonin Dvořák, well-known in its later orchestral version, was initially composed with piano accompaniment.

The young Dvořák was a well-studied and experienced church musician. Having graduated from the organ school in Prague, he spent three pious years as an organist in the city’s St. Adalbert’s Church. The search for a “truly sacred music” preoccupied him from the very start. The contemporary Caecilian Movement for church music reform led him, like many of his colleagues, to re-examine the Palestrina style, which represented a return to the more modest, less ostentatious and yet at the same time contrapuntally ingenious church music of a previous epoch. He duly composed a ”Stabat mater” without orchestral splendour and with a simple piano accompaniment. The medieval Latin prayer that found its way as a sequence into the liturgy of the Feast of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary and into the Holy Office as a hymn is an appeal to humanity: the Virgin Mary sees her humiliated, abused son dying on the cross. This transcends any denominational tradition, and leaves no-one unmoved. Shortly before Dvořák wrote down this first version of his ”Stabat mater” between February 19 and May 7, 1876, a heavy blow had struck the young family. On December 19, 1875, his daughter Josefa died two days after she was born. In August 1877, following the tragic deaths of Dvořák’s eleven-month-old daughter Ružena and his three-year-old son Otakar, the composer returned to the ”Stabat Mater” again, orchestrated the work, and completed it on November 13. The premiere of that later version took place on December 23, 1880 in Prague, and it was published a few months later. Since then his ”Stabat mater” has touched people all over the world, and it is his most important composition in the genre of sacred music.

Dvořák did not set all the verses of the hymn to music, and chose an ensemble of four soloists, a choir and a piano. This original version from the spring of 1876, with its seven-movement structure, is not a fragment, draft or piano reduction but an independent and self-contained work in its own right. In the autumn of 1877, when he composed the missing four verses and scored his ”Stabat mater” for a large orchestra, he effectively created a new and different work. (The piano version was only edited for the first time just a few years ago.)

About the edition The performance on this CD was recorded at a recent concert by the Bavarian Radio Chorus on March 2, 2019 in Munich’s Prinzregententheater, which drew great attention and approval from the audience and the press.


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