University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Dvorak: Mass in D Minor, Stabat Mater

02/18/2024 1:00 pm
02/18/2024 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

I have presented recordings of several of the thirteen operas of Antonin Dvorak, who also wrote a quantity of religious choral music. Now is the time to sample this body of work, beginning with a 1971 Czech Supraphon recording of his Mass in D Minor (1892), with Vaclav Smetacek conducting the Prague Symphony Orchestra and Prague Philharmonic Choir and vocal soloists.

You'll be hearing more religious choral music in the Judeo-Christian tradition over the next upcoming Sundays now that it's Lent, which is the traditional period of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter. In old Catholic Europe and in Protestant lands, too, the opera houses were closed for the entire forty-day penitential period, which this year began on Ash Wednesday, February 14. That Supraphon recording of the Mass in D Minor was reissued on CD only last year. It's a setting of the Roman Catholic liturgy in the ancient Latin text.

Also in the Latin language is a Catholic devotional poem from the Middle Ages, the Stabat Mater, describing the anguish Mary the Mother of Jesus felt as she witnessed the Crucifixion of her Son, Many composers have set this sorrowful narrative to music. For Dvorak the sorrow was heartfelt in composing his Stabat Mater in 1877, since his own daughter had just died in infancy. Dvorak's Stabat Mater is his best known choral work; it has been much performed for Good Friday observances and frequently recorded. The Dvorak Stabat Mater was the last thing famed choral director Robert Shaw recorded shortly before his death in 1999 at the age of eighty two. Shaw conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with four vocal soloists. Keep listening for an NPR broadcast interview with Robert Shaw about the Stabat Mater. This is an additional track in the 1999 two-CD Telarc release.