Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

About the composer
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710 - 1736) was born in Jesi, Italy. His name became known thanks to his comic opera La Serva Padrone. He was slightly handicapped and had a weak constitution. He probably died of tuberculosis. A lot of confusion exists about which works Pergolesi did or did not compose. As his work came more and more in demand, some publishers tried to make a little extra by taking an anonymous composition and attaching the name of Pergolesi to it. However, about the Stabat Mater there is no doubt. It is known that in his early years he composed a Stabat Mater in A minor.
Probably the Stabat Mater in C minor was Pergolesi's last composition. The commission for this work was given by the same Order in Naples for which Alessandro Scarlatti 20 years earlier had composed a Stabat Mater. Though the score of the compositions is almost identical, the melodic lines of Pergolesi are more sentimental and highly ornamented.The piece was widely acclaimed and it seems to have inspired many composers to imitate, paraphrase and adapt (see Brunetti, de Nardis and Paisiello). Joseph Eybler (1764 - 1846), who was a friend of Mozart and who became Court Kapellmeister in Vienna after Antonio Salieri, added a choir to replace some of the duets, and extended the orchestra. Others were John Adam Hiller/Johann Adam Hüller (1728 - 1804) and Alexy Fyodorovich L'vov (ca. 1830). The musical setting of Psalm 51 "Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden" of the great Johann Sebastian is another example.
A completely different, and very curious adaptation is by a group called "Ophelia's Dream" (see CD 8). It seems that this kind of music is described as "Gothic".
The Victor Alcántara Trio recorded an extended (one hour!) jazz improvisation , in which all parts of the Stabat Mater are used as starting points (See CD 9) and another interesting one is by Jazz musician Enrico Rava for string quartet, trumpet, accordion, guitar, bass and percussion (See CD 10).
The well-known producer Frank Fitzpatrick, who also composed music for numerous movies, recently produced a CD in a kind of hip-hop style for the singer Sasha Lazard, with a Stabat Mater composition by him, based on Pergolesi (See CD 11).
Another quite different interpretation of the first part of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater can be found on a CD by "Le Quator" (See CD 12). This group is a string quartet, but they sing, too, playing all kinds of music, from Cole Porter to Mozart. Though they are a kind of musical clowns, their interpretation of the music comes close to being serious.
The soundtrack of the George Lukas movie "THX 1138" contains a small Stabat Mater, composed by Lalo Schifrin. It starts with a line from the first part of Pergolesi's work, but then develops into a gloomy orchestral work. It plays during the film titles. (See CD 13)
The first and last parts of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater have been used in the soundtrack of the movie "Jésus de Montréal"; the third part (Quis est homo) is used in the soundtrack of the movie "Smilla's Sense of Snow"; the last part is also used in the movie "Amadeus" and in the movie "Mirror" by Andrei Tarkovsky.
The film "Cactus" by the Australian director Paul Cox is also said to have Pergolesi's Stabat Mater on the soundtrack, but I do not know what parts are used.

About the Stabat Mater

Date 1736
Performers Soprano, alto, three violins, cello, organ
Length 41.44 minutes (CD 1), 41.30 minutes (CD 2), 37.27 minutes (CD 3), 40.03 minutes (CD 4), 34.58 minutes (CD 5), 39.38 minutes (CD 6), 33.12 (CD 7)
Particulars The work is divided into twelve sections, varying from one to five stanzas. Very moving melodies, which led to some criticism because they were thought to be too cheerful. Interesting is the line "dum e-mi-sit" which is sung intermittently, as a musical picture of the last breaths of Jesus. This is found also with some other composers.
Some interpretations deviate from the composer's score, as a choir has been added to the two voices (see the second Colorbar, based on CD 2). This is probably based on the Eybler adaptation.
Textual variations The "Analecta"-version of the text is used, with one change:
- Stanza 16, line 2: not "Passionis eius sortem" but "Passionis fac consortem"



CD information

CD 1 Decca 421 645-2: Rossini, Petite Messe Solenelle
About this CD A double CD with Rossini's beautiful mass, to which the Stabat Mater has been added to complete the second CD. These registrations appeared earlier on LP.
The Stabat Mater was recorded at the Conservatorio di Napoli, Naples, in July 1964. It is a fine performance, with excellent soloists, though the use of a full-bodied string orchestra is not exactly as Pergolesi prescribed.
I bought this CD in a record shop in the Netherlands, 1994
Orchestra Orchestra Rossini di Napoli
Conductor Franco Carraciolo
Soloists Judith Raskin, soprano
Maureen Lehane, alto
Other works Gioacchino Rossini: Petite Messe Solenelle
Added 1994 ROS 02


CD 2 Decca 443 869-2 (double CD): Pergolesi/Scarlatti/Bononcini - Stabat Mater
About this CD A nice collection of Stabat Maters and some other works, even if the registrations are rather old. As it is the only Bononcini registration that I know of, every collector should have it.
Pergolesi was recorded in 1978. The performance deviates from the original score, as a choir is used in some sections, and, of course, a full-bodied string orchestra.
I bought this CD in a record shop in the Netherlands, 1997
Orchestra The Argo Chamber Orchestra
Choir Choir of St.John's College, Cambridge
Conductor George Guest
Soloists Felicity Palmer, soprano
Alfreda Hodgson, alto
Other works Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Magnificat in C major
Antonio Bononcini, Stabat Mater
Domenico Scarlatti, Stabat Mater
Alessandro Scarlatti, O magnum mysterium + Domine, refugium factus est nobis
Antonio Lotti, Crucifixus
Antonio Caldara, Crucifixus
Added 1997 BON 01


CD 3 L'Oiseau-Lyre 425 692-2: Pergolesi -Stabat Mater - Salve Regina
About this CD Recorded at the St Jude's Church, London, in August 1988. Another fine performance, with excellent soloists, though again the use of a full-bodied string orchestra is not exactly as Pergolesi prescribed. Some people find this interpretation too florid.
Orchestra Academy of Ancient Music
Conductor Christopher Hogwood
Soloists Emma Kirkby, soprano
James Bowman, countertenor
Other works Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Salve Regina
Added PER 01


CD 4 STH Quality Records 19343: Giovanni Pergolesi, Stabat Mater
About this CD I like this one, even if I am not very fond of trebles, because the interpretation is as close to the original as possible. No female singers are used, and the accompaniment is as Pergolesi wrote. Pure Pergolesi!
Recorded at the St.Joriskerk, Amersfoort, Netherlands, in May 1993.
Orchestra Florilegium Musicum
Conductor Pieter Jan Leusink
Soloists Martinus Leusink, treble
Sytze Buwalda, countertenor
Other works
Added Unknown PER 02


CD 5 Alpha 009: Musica napoletana per la festa della Vergine dei Sette dolori
About this CD This CD tries to paint a picture of the festivities that took place in the streets of Naples in the 18th century during processions hold in honor of the Virgin of the Seven Sorrows, on the Friday before Palm Sunday.
Recorded in Paris, February 2000. The Pergolesi Stabat Mater is performed with a light accompaniment, as it should, but stanzas 1, 3, 10 and 20 are sung not by soloists, but by a choir. It is a  very fast interpretation.
Orchestra Le Poème Harmonique
Choir Les Pages e les Chantres de la Chapelle
Conductor Olivier Schneebell
Soloists Arno Meier, Florent Msigtot, Marie Planinsek, trebles
Damien Guillon, Bruno Le Levreur, countertenor
Other works Anonymous: Stabat Mater intonation
Anonymous: Tarantella
Anonymous: Stabat Mater à trois voix
Francesco Durante: Concerto nr 4 en mi
Added PER 03


CD 6 Novita' della Classica: Pergolesi, Stabat Mater - Salve Regina - In Coelestibus Regnis
About this CD Nice performance, with fine soloists, but again, with the use of a full-bodied string orchestra.
Recorded at the Sacrestia Monumentale della Chiesa di San Marco, Milan, in February 1996.
Orchestra I Solisti dell'Orchestra Filarmonica della Scale
Conductor Ricardo Muti
Soloists Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Anna Caterina Antonacci, alto
Other works Salve Regina
In Coelestibus Regnis
Added PER 04


CD 7 KRO ES47.387: Stabat Mater
This CD is produced by the Dutch KRO radio, in cooperation with the Stabat Mater Foundation.
About this CD Even faster than CD 5. Yet again, with the use of a full-bodied string orchestra. Also, the soloists are partly - during 6 stanzas - replaced by a female choir. Nevertheless, a performance worth listening to, in a suitable location. Moreover, it features the world premiere of the Stabat Mater by Fiocco.
It is a recording of a concert performed on April 1, 2001 in the St.Petrus church at Oirschot.
Soloists Roberta Alexander, soprano
Sytse Buwalda, alto
Choir Capella Brugensis
Conductor Patrick Peire
Other works Pietro Antonio Fiocco, Stabat Mater
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Stabat Mater
Added 2001 (FIO 01)


CD 8 Sad Eyes (Trinity records) tri 051 cd: Ophelia's Dream - Stabat Mater - EP
About this CD It is a pity that very little information is given with this CD. A sticker on the box tell us:
"Heavenly voices & neo-classic with a feeling of an honest, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Death, or laughter in the face of Death. Goth in its purest and darkest sense!"
I would describe it as an extremely romantic, heavily accentuated adaption of the Pergolesi work. Nevertheless, I like it! The normal string orchestra has been extended by clavicord, piano and church organ. Stanzas 2 and 4 are played as orchestral interludes, while stanza 10 is a toccata-like organ solo. The final Amen is played as a piano solo. Stanza's 9 and 11 through 19 are omitted. Recorded in the Nova Tonstudio Beilstein; no date is given.
The total playing time is only 23.43 minutes!
I bought this CD on the Internet, Martz-Mailorder, 2001
Soloists Susanne Stierle and Dietmar Greulich
No information about what they did. Probably the two singers (soprano, alto).
Other works
Added 2001 PER 05


CD 9 Organic Music ORGM 9716: Victor Alcántara Trio. Stabat Mater Inspirations
About this CD A very nice improvisation. As Victor Alcántara writes: "This trio arrangement is intended to let the music speak for itself. The text was not the point of departure for the arrangement, though it has left its mark. I hope that despite the musical treatment to which the original has been subjected, the listener can still perceive the love which with Pergolesi wrote his work an which remains immanent in it".
Recorded in Germany in 1999.
Orchestra Victor Alcántara Trio
Soloists Victor Alcántara: piano
Thomas Stabenow, bass
Bastian Jütte, percussion
Other works
Added Unknown - (PER 06)


CD 10 Harmonia Mundi (Label Bleu) LBLC 6559: "Rava l'opera va"
About this CD Partly, the jazz improvisation follows the Pergolesi melodies in a very relaxed way, partly it consists of Miles Davies-like improvisations, not really my taste.
Recorded in Italy in 1993.
I bought this CD in a record shop in the Netherlands, 1999
Orchestra String quartet "Insieme strumentale di Roma"
Soloists Enrico Rava, trumpet
Richard Galliano, accordion
Battista Lena, guitar
Palle Danielsson, bass
Jon Christensen, percussion
Other works Jazz improvisations on works by Puccini (a.o. Tosca) and Bizet
Added 1999  PER 07


CD 11 Omtown OMCD 11552: Sasha Lazard, The Myth of Red
About this CD A collection of songs, described on Sasha Lazard's website as: Operatic arias fused together with primal/tribal electronic hip-hop beats.
We can hear Pergolesi in the song Stabat Mater IXXI and in Stabat Mater Reprise
Recorded in the USA in 2002
I bought this CD on the Internet,, 2003
Orchestra Keyboards, synth bass, percussion, cello
Soloists Sasha Lazard, soprano
Other works The music is partly based on classical music (for instance Rachmaninov, Caccini, Verdi, Cesti, Saint-Saens)
Added 2003 PER 08


CD 12 JMS 18689-2: Le Quator
About this CD A collection of musical pieces which resemble patchwork, being composed of parts of classical music, modern and traditional songs, played by musical clowns. Still, it is quite nice to listen to. Pity that I cannot understand what they sing.
I bought this CD on the Internet,, 2003
Orchestra Le Quator, consisting of:
Jean-Claude Camors, violin
Laurent Vercambre, violin
Pierre Ganem, viola
Laurent Cirade, cello
Other works In the twelve pieces on the CD we can hear shards of Mozart, Borodin, Brahms, Tsjaikowsky and others.
Added 2003 PER 09


CD 13 Film Score Monthly, Vol.6, Nr.4 - Lalo Schifrin, THX 1138
About this CD The original motion picture soundtrack of THX 1138, an SF movie by George Lukas, made in 1969.
I bought this CD on the Internet,, 2004
Orchestra Unknown, but conducted by Lalo Schifrin
Other works  
Added 2004  PER 10


CD 14 A recording of the concert by Saxo Panico and soloists on March 27, 2008 in the Bethaniënklooster in Amsterdam.
About this CD This is a very special performance. Saxo Panico is a saxophone quartet. They made an arrangement of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater for their saxophone quartet. Apart from a few minimal adaptations, they remain totally true to the original composition by Pergolesi. I visited the concert and they gave me a cd. 
Orchestra Saxo Panico
Soloists Mariëtte Oelderik, Soprano, Marianne Selliger
Added January 2009 - PER 11


CD 15 Looking Back over  The Baroque - Andreas Pritwitz
About this CD The cd contains baroque music (pergolesi, Bach, Corelli, Vivaldi, Purcell) with original instruments, mixed with modern instruments and improvisations. Sometimes a bit jazzy, sometimes romantic. I like it very much. Andreas Prittwitz sent the cd (and another one Looking Back over The Renaissance) to me because of Pergolesi's Stabat mater Dolorosa (only the first stanza). On Youtube you can watch the video about Pegolesi's Stabat Mater.
Orchestra The musicians are
Andreas Prittwitz, Sopran Saxophone and Clarinet
Krzysztof Wisniewsky and Joan Espina, Violins
Christina Pozas, Viola
Miguel Jiménez, Violoncello
Roberto Terrón, Contrabas
Added October 2010 - PER 12


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