Pain, grief, comfort – Stabat Mater by Antonin Dvořák

RMF 2019: Opening concert with the hr-Sinfonieorchester and the MDR Rundfunkchor under the baton of Andrés Orozco-Estrada in the Basilica of Eberbach Monastery/Foto: RMF, Ansgar Klostermann

The 32nd Rheingau Music Festival 2019 opened on 22 and 23 June with Antonin Dvořáks magnificent sacred choral work “Stabat Mater”. Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducted the hr-Sinfonierochester and the 60-person MDR Radio Choir in the Basilica of Eberbach Monastery. Gerlind Romberger (alto), Hanna-Elisabeth Müller (soprano), Benjamin Bruns (tenor) and Günther Groissböck (bass) completed the enormous cloud of sound with their solos, duets and quartets.

A special feature of the opening concert was

Prof. Dr.Dr. Julien Michel Friedmann/Foto: RMF, Ansgar Klostermann

the introductory lecture by Prof. Dr. Dr. Julien Michel Friedmann. In his speech he discussed the current mood in Germany after the murder of District President Walter Lübke. He appealed to the courage of all citizens to express themselves and not to look away when something displeases them, especially when it is a matter of disrespect and discrimination against fellow human beings. He called on people to take responsibility and think about which party to vote for in elections and received much applause for this. 

The work of Antonin Dvořák is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. But it is not only the religious confession, also his very personal pain Dvořák has inscribed in the notes: the grief of a father about the death of his three children. With great empathy, he created an opulent choral work in 1876, which strikes soft tones as well as romantic pathos, which makes one feel sympathy. In 1875 his daughter Josepha died two days after her birth. Two years later, within a few weeks, his daughter, who was barely one and a half years old, died of poisoning, followed by his son from smallpox. The Stabat Mater is about pain, about Mary’s story, which prototypically stands for the suffering and sorrow of countless generations. The text offered Dvořák the opportunity to channel his personal pain into music. At the same time, he placed himself in his work in a tradition of occidental church music, which is continued to this day. Over 400 composers have made their contribution to the history of Stabat mater settings up to the present day.

The sacred cantata for solos, choir and orchestra is divided into ten movements without a break of 90 minutes. In the second movement, the quartet, the uproarious first movement is followed by a constantly repeating motif that is half a sigh and a soothing gesture. The third movement is reminiscent of a funeral march. In the fifth movement there is a striking change of mood. From now on, major dominates the harmonic events. Only the ninth movement leads back to the dark basic mood. The ninth movement takes up the minor worlds of the first part. In the tenth and last movement one feels a kind of `a process of healing´. At the end Dvořák lets his Stabat Mater fade away in triple pianissimo. Frenetic applause and standing ovations were the signs of recognition and the enthusiasm of the audience for the opening concert 2019. jwm

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