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<<  -- 3 --  Tess Crebbin    SINGING DVORÁK


TC: Would you say that there is a specific Dvorák style in the Stabat Mater?

HS: As far as singing it, I would say no. Not in respect to the soloists. Chorus and orchestra are more specific. There are some very unique parts with its prominent sforzati and plenty of agogism. This also affects the soli which all require an absolutely clean portamento and a beautifully crafted rubato. I always try to musically express the emotions that arise in me when I sing this piece, meaning that you have to be technically absolutely correct when singing the Stabat Mater. You have to bring a high level of physical fitness also, but you cannot distance yourself from the piece. You have to give it your all and everything on every level: everything you have, everything you are, needs to go into singing it.

TC: Where, in your opinion, lies the special significance of Antonin Dvorák?

HS: Dvorák is one of the very few of among the great composers who has such an enormous range in their oeuvre and such an emotional depth that it is impossible to ignore his music. The music tells me about what is going on with the composer. I feel what he wants to express. If I sing the Verdi Requiem, I find parallels to Dvorak's Stabat Mater. He also wrote it as a reaction to grief. His children also died.

TC: What is the most difficult part in the Dvorák Stabat Mater for you?

HS: Frankly, if you treat the instrument in your throat with care, as I do, and if you are singing technically correctly, you should not have problems with any parts. But, yes, some pieces can be more challenging than others. I have no problems with the Stabat Mater, but in my beautiful bass solo there is F sharp, which is the highest note a bass can sing, so that is quite challenging. But it is such a beautiful piece that I look forward to singing it each time, I do not think of the difficulties. In terms of orchestration, there are other pieces that are a lot harder on the soloists in my opinion.

Copyright © 1 May 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


Harald Stamm's new book on singing technique, Kraftvoll entspanntes Singen (Thiasos 2004, ISBN 3-9805244-6-9) is currently only available in German, but the book is to be the subject of a future article by Tess Crebbin, in which non-German-speaking readers will be able to discover what Stamm has to say.

A selection of recordings of Dvorák's Stabat Mater is available from the classical department at Ludwig Beck in Munich.

Some Stabat Mater facts:

  • By the end of the fourteenth century it was extensively used in church liturgy but a dispute still exists over the authorship of the Stabat Mater poem
  • In 1727 the Roman Catholic Church introduced the Stabat Mater text into the Roman Breviary and Missal at the Feast of the Seven Sorrows
  • The Latin Stabat Mater Text is a vivid statement of devotional depth and faith
  • More than four hundred Stabat Mater settings exist to date, ranging from plain song to contemporary, with the earliest setting dating back to 1490 and the most recent in 2001 by the American composer William Cooper.
  • The most familiar romantic period Stabat Mater settings are by Verdi, Dvorák and Rossini
  • The title, Stabat Mater, is abbreviated for the first line of the poem: Stabat Mater Dolorosa. Both Dvorák and Vanhal set this first line for chorus.
  • A brief overview of Stabat Maters reads like a Who's Who of composers. Some of these are:
    1736 Pergolesi (Italy)
    1748 Bach (Germany)
    1815 Schubert
    1866 Liszt
    1877 Dvorak
    1898 Verdi
    1898 Kodaly
    1962 Penderecki

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