Haydn’s Stabat Mater dates from 1767 and is among the earliest of his large-scale vocal works. Until 1766 he had been the deputy to Gregor Joseph Werner at Eisenstadt, so had gained a thorough experience in both the performance of lavish Mass settings (in which he himself would excel), and Grabenmusiken, or musical meditations on religious themes intended to stress the penitential character of the age. Such works were a feature especially of the period of Lent. The Stabat Mater became a great success. Copies of it can be found in libraries across Europe, and it was a regular feature of the ‘concerts spirituels’ in revolutionary Paris.
Haydn, then in the middle of his Sturm und Drang (‘Storm and Stress’) period, uses dramatic and daring harmonies and extreme chromaticisms to heighten the drama and the depictions of pain and anguish. A remarkable work for its time, it still has the ability to startle and move the listener in both its forward-looking harmonic style and emotional punch.
2009 is the bicentenary of Haydn’s death, and a reappraisal of this great composer’s genius will introduce many listeners to several of his works for the first time. The Stabat Mater is essential to any CD collection of his works.
- Recording made by VOX/Turnabout
- Booklet notes and sung texts included.
• The conductor Frieder Bernius is a distinguished scholar and conductor of early music, and has made many recordings with the Canadian ensemble Tafelmusik for Sony Classics