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Notes From The Conductor: Stabat Mater

Why are so many composers drawn to the Stabat Mater structure and what distinguishes Rossini’s version from the others?

The very beginning of classical music as we know it today was mostly choral work and only for religious purpose so these biblical texts as the Stabat Mater was very central in the Christian service during eastern so in time many composers composed and after 1800 they were more inspired by the text and it’s profound meaning of the Mother crying over her son. Naturally the romantic period saw this text in a very emotional way. Rossini is a very different because it’s almost an opera with small arias and choir succeeding one after another. He inspired Verdi afterwards for the very famous Requiem he composed.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 opens the concert, how does this piece pair with Stabat Mater? Is it similar in its sound or theatrical quality?

Beethoven pairing with Rossini is actually very strange and I love it because Rossini was so famous in Vienna at the time when Beethoven was already composing the Ninth symphony. It’s similar music in some technical aspect but musically it’s opposed because Rossini was an opera composer and Beethoven much more symphony and instrumental music.

Stabat Mater is operatic in its sound, what is it like to conduct many soloists as well as a choir in concert?

It’s amazing how different working with singers is. In a way it is much more intimate because singers are also very present on stage and they can look in the eyes and have a strong visual connection with a conductor and an audience.

What was your first impression of Rossini’s Stabat Mater?

I heard this piece years ago when I was assistant conductor in Paris. Gianandrea Noseda was conducting his orchestra (Torino Rai) and I was astonished by this piece I didn’t even know of. I fell in love right away because of the strong character of every movement. It also looks so easy on the page but it is incredibly deep and the dramatic curve is for sure very well built!

– Andrei Feher