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Stabat mater
author of text
Sequence for the Feast of Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary

'Boccherini & Astorga: Stabat mater' (CDA67108)
Boccherini & Astorga: Stabat mater
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Movement 1: Stabat mater dolorosa
Movement 2: O quam tristis et afflicta
Movement 3: Quis est homo, qui non fleret
Movement 4: Eia mater, fons amoris
Movement 5: Sancta mater, istud agas
Movement 6: Fac me tecum pie flere
Movement 7: Virgo virginum praeclara
Movement 8: Fac me plagis vulnerari
Movement 9: Christe quam sit hinc exire

Stabat mater
In his day, Astorga was best known for his chamber cantatas, of which more than one hundred and fifty survive. These are well written, tuneful and were thoroughly popular. Only the first Act of the opera Dafni now survives. But by far his most enduring work has proved to be a setting of the Stabat Mater, his only surviving sacred composition. Whether it was the apparent romance of his adventurous life that attracted people, or the allure of a wild nobleman who wrote good music, a veritable cult for Astorga grew up during the nineteenth century. Epics, dramas and novellas were written and, in the absence of much fact, legends were invented, colourfully describing the gruesome death of his father on the scaffold. Johann Joseph Abert wrote an opera in 1866 in which Astorga becomes deranged, only being brought back to sanity when his wife plays a few bars of his Stabat Mater setting. The work appeared in many manuscript copies, was published several times and performed with considerable frequency.

Hans Volkmann, Astorga's great champion and biographer at the start of the twentieth century, dated the Stabat Mater, purely (and rather debatably) on stylistic grounds, around 1707. There are equally valid arguments for any date up to around 1730. Whatever, throughout we see Astorga's gift for writing warm melodies, typical of the Neapolitan style of the time. He also captures the melancholy of this most desolate of sacred texts and, especially in the choruses, demonstrates a thorough grasp of counterpoint, but never at the expense of musicality. The work sets ten of the standard six-line verses, connecting two for the third, double-duet movement, but otherwise forming independent movements. In his scoring Astorga takes a variety of combinations of chorus, solo, duet and trio. The mixture of melody with melancholy, sweetness tempered with mild chromaticism, old-fashioned polyphony contrasted with Neapolitan cantilena, a surprisingly Germanic use of motivic development in the bel canto bass solo Fac me plagis vulnerari and the final, quietly operatic chorus which gently directs the listener away from the Virgin's sorrow towards the Carmelite missal's more optimistic 'palm of victory', all show an enormously attractive musical style. Composers and their work often enjoy a bumpy progression through history, but few paths can have been as bizarre as that of Astorga: in the eighteenth century a musical nobleman, during the nineteenth century a folk hero, and in the twentieth-century – oblivion.

from notes by Robert King © 1999

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Details for SACDA67108 track 20
Movement 9: Christe quam sit hinc exire
Recording date
24 February 1999
Recording venue
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Ben Turner
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. Boccherini & Astorga: Stabat mater (CDA67108)
    Disc 1 Track 20
    Release date: September 1999
    Deletion date: January 2008
    Archive Service
  2. Boccherini & Astorga: Stabat mater (SACDA67108)
    Disc 1 Track 20
    Release date: September 1999
    Deletion date: August 2013
    Super-Audio CD — Deleted
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