Szymanowski, Karol


Szymanowski, Karol

Stabat Mater for Solo Voices, Mixed Chorus and Orchestra

SKU: 1988 Category:



Karol Szymanowski

(born in Tymoszówka, 3 October 1882, died in Lausanne, 29 March 1937)

Stabat Mater for soli, mixed choir and orchestra op. 53

Orchestration: 2 Fl. – 2 ob./Cor Anglais. – 2 Cl. (A) – 2 Bs./Cbn. – 4 Hn. (F) – 2 Tpt. (B) – Hps. –
Perc. – Strings – Organ ad. lib.

Performance duration: c. 23 min

The readiness with which classical composers engage with religious texts has not diminished over the centuries. Liturgical musical in particular continues to enjoy great popularity, such that settings of the Mass and Requiem are frequently found into the 20th and 21st centuries, even if they do partly diverge from or transcend original meanings.

Of all the liturgical texts, the Stabat Mater, a mediaeval poem that deals with the sorrows of the Mother of God when confronted with Jesus’s death, plays a special role. That it forms part of today’s Catholic liturgy was by no means a given. Though it was included in 1521 in the Missale Romanum, the book of Mass of the Latin Church, it was banned from the liturgy just a few decades later under the Council of Trent (1545-1563). It was not until 1727 that the text found favour again, with the introduction of the feast of the Septem Dolorum Beatae Mariae Virginis to commemorate the Seven Sorrows of Mary. The service took place on the Friday after Passion Sunday and established the Stabat Mater as the fifth sequence in the set parts of the official Roman Mass liturgy, affording it a similar position to the sequences for Easter (Victimae paschali laudes), Pentecost (Veni Sancte Spiritus), Corpus Christi (Lauda Sion Salvatorem) and the Requiem Mass (Dies irae). However, after reforms to the liturgy as part of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Stabat Mater once more lost its place in the Passion liturgy and since then it has only been prayed or sung on 15 September, the current day on which the Sorrows of Mary are commemorated.

Despite this rather shabby treatment of the text, in the musical realm, the poem has lost none of its attraction. Indeed settings of the Stabat Mater are a constant from the Middle Ages to the present, with the newest compositions by Martin Lutz, Vladimir Romanov and Felix Bräuer dating between 2011 and 2016.

What is the appeal of this poem that, even after 600 years, leads so many composers to write settings? Perhaps two reasons for this stand out: firstly, the verses contain a high degree of emotion, exploring feelings of pain and sorrow in their full range, which lend themselves to varied musical expression. Secondly, and this may be key for many composers, is the personal element. This should not be underestimated since it allows the artist not only to respond from a religious perspective – with the sorrows of the Mother of God in view – but also to infuse this with his/her own individual, subjective motivations. The work is thereby given an additional significance which is closely associated with the composer as a person, making it possible to establish a connection between the textual model and individual behind the work.

Read full preface  > HERE

Score Data


Repertoire Explorer


Choir/Voice & Orchestra


225 x 320 mm





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