Dvorak – Stabat Mater

Antonin Dvorak

Performing choral music must qualify as one of the most healing and meditative pastimes you can undertake.  To perform well requires iron discipline and endless practice but becomes easier over the years with familiarity.

It is something I did with great enjoyment as a child chorister but to return to it much later in life required great effort.  After 7 or 8 years, perhaps I have achieved something of the fluency I once possessed as a treble.

One of the many joys is to study new music and find surprising beauty in places you had so far ignored or dismissed.

For many years I had worked on the assumption that anything written east of Berlin was cacophonous and horrible. I have been proved wrong time and again in recent years, and currently Dvorak’s Stabat Mater has shown me once again that opening oneself to new experience refreshes the soul.

Elsewhere I wrote of the importance of doing different things, even if it is only a question of putting your butter and marmalade on different sides of the toast.

Music is a classic case of needing to resist the temptation to stick with what you know, and to venture beyond your comfort zone.

To me Dvorak is somewhat bohemian, exotic; the Stabat Mater, to my ignorant mind, has a flavour of gypsy rhythm.

I found the piece quite challenging.  Some time signatures I had not done too often, some of the rhythms required concentraton.

The effort is worthwhile.  With greater exposure over the weeks, I came to find great beauty in the music. Quiet, soft passages, rising crescendos of sound, roars and quiet contemplation, passion and sorrow.  Often with a dance like quality such as “Tui nati vulnerati”.

My favourite section is the Eia Mater.

Eia mater, fons amoris, me sentire vim doloris, fac ut tecum lugeam.

Alas, mother, fountain of love, let me feel the force of your grief, so that I may bemoan with you.

Here is the full text of the Stabat Mater, a Latin hymn, probably of the 13th century, commemorating the sorrows of the Virgin Mary at the crucifixion of Jesus.

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