|About this Recording
8.573531 - ROSSINI, G.: Stabat Mater (1832 version) / Giovanna d'Arco (arr. M. Taralli) (Cullagh, Pizzolato, Sola, Palazzi, Württemberg Philharmonic, Fogliani)
Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868) and Giovanni Tadolini (1789–1872)
In February 1831 Rossini spent twelve days in Madrid. The purpose of his journey was to petition the crown to protect his interests as a creditor of the bankrupt Duke of Berwick and Alba, to whom Isabella Colbran—who in the meantime had become Madame Rossini—had lent a substantial sum of money in 1820. On 22nd February, the day before his return journey, Rossini was entertained by the influential prelate and music-lover Manuel Fernández Varela. In expressing his thanks, Rossini said that he would consider himself fortunate if he might dedicate to Varela a specially written composition—perhaps he had a simple album leaf in mind. The cleric took him at his word, inviting him to add a sacred work to his oeuvre (he was clearly unaware that Rossini had written numerous Mass fragments in his youth and a large-scale Messa di gloria in 1820). Rossini asked what he wanted, and without hesitating Varela requested a Stabat Mater.
Back in Paris Rossini, who was very busy, ignored the commission. Perhaps he was hoping that the cleric would forget about the promise. But the following year, as Good Friday approached, Varela pressed him to deliver the composition, and Rossini was forced to set the verse sequence attributed to Jacopone da Todi in double-quick time. It was for this reason, and not because he fell ill, as he later maintained, that he had to ask his friend Giovanni Tadolini for help. (Tadolini owed his position as répétiteur at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris to Rossini.) Rossini concentrated on the big choral and ensemble pieces (Nos. 1, 9, 11 and 12), also taking on a strict a cappella piece for bass and chorus (No. 8) and the contralto (or soprano II) aria (No. 10). He entrusted a series of solo numbers without chorus to Tadolini, who divided the remaining 8 verses of the poem into 6 sections (Nos. 2–7). Tadolini also composed the traditional closing choral fugue (No. 13) since he was a good contrapuntist and therefore more familiar with that style of writing. Rossini sent this thirteen-part composition—with 6 pieces of his own and 7 by Tadolini—for copying, wrote a dedication in his own hand dated 26th March 1832 and handed the manuscript to the French ambassador, who left for Madrid on 4th April. Owing to the quarantine measures imposed in the border town of Irun because of the cholera epidemic, the work did not reach Madrid until after Good Friday. Nevertheless, Varela thanked Rossini effusively for the Stabat and had it performed in the chapel of San Felipe el Real the following year, on Good Friday 5th April 1833. Of the performers, only the names of the conductor, Ramón Carnicer, and first violinist, Juan Diaz, have come down to us; we do not know who the singers were. Counting the orchestral and choral forces plus soloists, there were 80 performers in total. Two Spanish newspapers carried enthusiastic reports on the performance, but there was only an inconspicuous reference to it in a few other European publications. The Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitschrift for 18th September 1833 reported, for example: “According to the Bologna theatre journal of 25th April, on Good Friday last a Stabat Mater composed by Rossini was given in the Royal Chapel in Madrid, which was generally admired and considered a classic”. No one noticed that half the music was not by Rossini—or at least this wasn’t mentioned anywhere.
When Varela died in 1837, the score was put up for auction, and then in 1841 it passed into the hands of the Parisian publisher Antonin Aulagnier. Rossini got wind of this and moved heaven and earth to prevent the “patchwork” being published and performed, which led to protracted legal wrangling. He immediately set to work to replace the pieces written by Tadolini, substituting three larger numbers of his own for the six solo numbers that hadn’t been by him and ending the work with a Rossinian closing fugue (with the additional words “in sempiterna saecula”). This gave rise to the 10-part Stabat Mater that everyone knows and which Rossini sold to his publisher Troupenas, who printed it immediately. The première was given at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris on 7th January 1842, followed by the first official Italian performance in Bologna on 18th March 1842, overseen by Rossini, who had persuaded Donizetti to conduct. Since then, the work has remained a staple of the European sacred music repertoire.
The autograph score of Rossini’s Stabat Mater is now in the British Library and comprises the six pieces he wrote in 1832 plus the four new numbers from 1841, readily distinguishable because of the different paper formats. Probably as early as 1832 Rossini returned to Tadolini the autograph manuscript of the seven pieces he had written. They are now lost, as is the score acquired by Aulagnier, of which there are no surviving copies. The only surviving traces of Tadolini’s composition have come down to us in the shape of two piano reductions. While the wrangling was going on, Aulagnier (who was denied the publication rights) secretly had the 13-part Stabat printed by the publishing house Crantz in Hamburg, and later his own house published 6 of the 7 pieces by Tadolini (without mentioning who had really composed them, of course). To get an impression of what Tadolini’s pieces sounded like today, there are only two possibilities: performing them just with piano accompaniment, or reorchestrating them. This was precisely the task that Antonino Fogliani, who conducted the performance in Wildbad, took on. He only had a few details about the instrumentation from an 1841 discussion of the Aulagnier score to go on, otherwise he had to depend on his instincts as a musician, whilst bearing in mind how a piano reduction is created from an orchestral score in order to reverse the process and guess what the lost orchestral parts might have looked like. Apart from that, he was looking for orchestral colours that would correspond to those of the Rossini pieces, in order to create a homogenous sound. Thanks to his work and the performance at the “Rossini in Wildbad” festival, we are now able to get a clear idea of what the Stabat Mater that was heard on just one previous occasion, in Madrid in 1833, was like. The main realisation is that Tadolini too was a superb writer for the voice with a gift for melody; the small scale of his solo pieces demonstrates that he only lacked that ability to think and plan on a large scale which raised Rossini above the level of his contemporaries.
Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868)
If we are to believe Rossini, the cantata Giovanna d’Arco, for voice and piano, was composed in the same year as the first version of his Stabat Mater. The title page, which he wrote in the 1860s, probably when he inserted the cantata in tenth place in the volume of his péchés de vieillesse or “sins of old age” entitled Miscellanée de musique vocale, reads: “Giovanna D’Arco | cantata for solo voice | with piano accompaniment | especially composed | for | Miss Olimpia Pélissier | by | Gioachino Rossini | Paris 1832”. The period 1834–35, when his relationship with Olympe Pélissier began to deepen, seems more plausible. (He married Olympe in 1846 after the death of his first wife, Isabella Colbran.) There is a letter to Balzac dated November 1834 in which Olympe mentions singing in a concert, while another letter mentions a concert at which a new work by Rossini was to be premiered. Putting these two near-contemporaneous statements together, it does not seem improbable that Olympe Pélissier did indeed give the first performance of Giovanna d’Arco in Paris on 12 November 1834. On the other hand, the documented performance was by Marietta Alboni, on 1 April 1859 in Rossini’s salon with the composer at the piano.
There are also similarities of content between the Stabat Mater and the cantata. Both pay tribute to the cult of Mary or of motherhood, giving expression to Rossini’s close ties to his own mother. As an entire volume of letters shows, Anna Rossini was his main point of reference throughout his career as a composer; he told her about his successes and failures, about the euphoria of his first great love-affair and about how it ended (Lettere ai genitori, Pesaro 2004). Anna died in 1827, while Rossini was rehearsing Moïse in Paris, and he reproached himself for not having hastened to her sickbed in Bologna. No other sacred composition had the Stabat Mater’s power to move him, something he played down when he later asserted that he was reluctant to set it because of his reverence for Pergolesi’s setting.
The anonymous text of the cantata is about the shepherdess Joan of Arc (the “Maid of Orleans”) who, full of her mission to save her fatherland, has to leave her mother. The material had an ongoing fascination for Rossini, who allegedly said later: “I was offered two or three libretti for Giovanna d’Arco. One portrayed her as a sweetheart, another as a lover. I couldn’t understand either of them. What has love got to do with the legend of this heroine?” He was thinking of conjugal love, which had basically long ago ceased to interest him, disillusioned sceptic that he was. In his cantata he pays homage to love of one’s country and above all to parental love, which constitutes the emotional climax of the lyrical main section.
In 1845 Rossini returned to the theme when, in his capacity as consultant to the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, he wrote two accompanied recitatives for the talented composition student Lucio Campiani’s graduation piece Giovanna d’Arco. These were incorrectly construed as an attempt by Rossini to orchestrate his cantata with piano accompaniment. If there is a need for an orchestration nowadays, then it arises from the desire to hear the piece performed by a great singer in the context of an orchestral concert where the piano would be out of place both spatially and acoustically. This disc is the first recording of Marco Taralli’s 2009 orchestration. Commissioned by “Rossini in Wildbad”, it represents an unobtrusive yet original working-out of Rossini’s admirable piano writing.
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