Monday, March 09, 2009

Either very appropriate, or very inappropriate, for Lent

While my car's been in the shop I've been driving my mom's car around (she headed for France the day after the accident-- nice timing.) Mom's car doesn't have a tape deck, so no iPod for me. Instead I spent all week listening to a CD I found between the seats. It was a collection of "Sacred Classics", and I loved track #4. I didn't know the composer or the title of the work; the CD didn't say. And it began with a strangely somber introduction. But then it became a romantic, dramatic, beautiful piece. I couldn't quite say what language it was in-- Latin? Italian? Spanish, even?-- but it made me picture two young lovers triumphing at the end of an opera, having defeated all adversity. I drove around for days listening to this ravishing song and imagining myself flouncing around on the stage in crinolines while the rich-voiced tenor belted it out.

Eventually I dug out the CD case and learned what the song was. Here's a performance of it on YouTube (dark handsome Italian singer for additional viewing pleasure):



Yup. It's an arrangement of Stabat Mater, a famous chant in Latin from the 1200's about the suffering of the Virgin Mary as she stood at the foot of her Son's Cross. Here are the three stanzas in this particular movement, followed by a literal translation:

Cuius animam gementem
contristatam et dolentem
pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta
mater Unigeniti!

Quae maerebat et dolebat
et tremebat cum videbat
nati poenas incliti.


Through her weeping soul,
compassionate and grieving,
a sword passed.

O how sad and afflicted
was that blessed
Mother of the Only-begotten!

Who mourned and grieved
and trembled with seeing
the torment of her glorious Son.


So, not so much flouncing around stage, then. I freely admit I know very little about classical music, but someone please tell me I'm not crazy for thinking that Rossini was crazy to compose that kind of music for those words!

4 comments:

Meg said...

Perhaps Rossini had a vivid imagination or very pasionate about his passions? Either way he's nuts for creating a musical score for those sacred lyrics.

Never trust an Italian! :)

Ciao for now!

JimAroo said...

On the other hand 100% of those who comment on this topic are Italian.

Check out Haydn's Seven Last Words which can be used as a musical setting for the Seven Last Words service on Good Friday. It is perfectly fitting. Look at You tube and you can see a separate recording for each "word".


But I guess Rossini could only sound like a 19th Century Italian Romantic - no matter what the words meant.

Try Dvorak's version of the Stabat Mater for more solemnity:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E31TiDfWY5Y

Vocal only with the master of sacred music, Palestrina:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPnufDDPXFY

Rachel Gray said...

You crazy Italians. My English, German, Scottish and Swedish blood has no idea what to do with you.

(Next week I'll be Irish and then I'll feel more affinity!)

I'm definitely going to check those out, Jim-- thanks!

Rachel Gray said...

I've checked out the YouTube videos. Palestrina was great! I think they must perform his stuff at the weekly TLM at St. Therese in Alhambra, because a lot of the chant sounds like that-- really beautiful.