Friday, April 22, 2011

God's Friday - The Death of the Widow's Son and the Sins of Man

Mary, Mother of God, witnessed the torments and torture of her Son, the long agonizing march up Calvary, the nailing of His Hands and Feet to the Cross by tough Roman legionaries, the scorn and derrision of the mocking crowd, His forgiveness of a the Zealot Dismas and all of us and the offering of the spirit that is Life to His Father.

Mary the Widow stood at the foot of the cross - Stabat Mater.

Pergolisi* seemed to get the whole context of the anguish and heroic devotion of the Mother of Our Church.

Today is Good Friday - the Long Friday in the Anglo-Saxon tradition - and though Easter in three days marks the foundation of our Faith, that the Risen Christ is promise of God's Love fulfilled, it seems that the Widow, Mary's stand really tells us what faith demands.


Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710 - 1736) was born in Jesi, Italy. His name became known thanks to his comic opera La Serva Padrone. He was slightly handicapped and had a weak constitution. He probably died of tuberculosis. A lot of confusion exists about which works Pergolesi did or did not compose. As his work came more and more in demand, some publishers tried to make a little extra by taking an anonymous composition and attaching the name of Pergolesi to it. However, about the Stabat Mater there is no doubt. It is known that in his early years he composed a Stabat Mater in A minor.
Probably the Stabat Mater in C minor was Pergolesi's last composition. The commission for this work was given by the same Order in Naples for which Alessandro Scarlatti 20 years earlier had composed a Stabat Mater. Though the score of the compositions is almost identical, the melodic lines of Pergolesi are more sentimental and highly ornamented.The piece was widely acclaimed and it seems to have inspired many composers to imitate, paraphrase and adapt (see Brunetti, de Nardis and Paisiello). Joseph Eybler (1764 - 1846), who was a friend of Mozart and who became Court Kapellmeister in Vienna after Antonio Salieri, added a choir to replace some of the duets, and extended the orchestra. Others were John Adam Hiller/Johann Adam Hüller (1728 - 1804) and Alexy Fyodorovich L'vov (ca. 1830). The musical setting of Psalm 51 "Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden" of the great Johann Sebastian is another example.

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