Haydn Ensemble brings Stabat Mater to Sydney

Celeste Lazarenko, main, and Helen Sherman, top, will lead the AHE’s performance of Stabat Mater. Scrresnhot: Helen White

The Australian Haydn Ensemble will this April bring to life the iconic classical text Stabat Mater from Italian music composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.

Stabat Mater is most well-known to Catholics for its long tradition as part of Good Friday services and the feast of Our Lady of sorrows and is a hymn that contemplates the sorrow of Mary at the crucifixion.

The hymn, written in 1736, is one of the most well-known compositions of the 18th century Baroque-era sacred music known as an oratorio, a grand musical rendition derived from biblical narratives and religious themes which utilises a soloist, choir and orchestra.

AHE’s founder and artistic director Skye McIntosh told The Catholic Weekly she has wanted to commission the iconic piece for some time.

“It’s something that many people can connect with one level musically that also has a deeper level for others spiritually,” said Skye.

“Sacred music in the Baroque style was very important in the 18th century and reflected the spiritual fervour of the era.

“People looked to the church for solace and understanding and in that was this music that created a place of community.”

Alongside Pergolesi’s text the concerts will also open with selections from composer Johann Adolf Hasse, including Sanctus Petrus et Sancta Maria Magdalena, the story of St Peter’s reflection on his rejection of Christ.

The voices headlining the vocal tale of anguish, grief and redemption are sopranos Helen Sherman, a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of music, and Celeste Lazarenko, who most recently lent her voice to Mozart’s Idomneo with Opera Australia.

They will be accompanied by an orchestra of period instruments and a replica Baroque-era chamber organ.

“All combined it really allows the music to be heard in the way it would have been at the time it was first written and performed,” said Skye.

“We’ve gone back to the manuscript that the composer wrote to try and dig into the detail of what they were trying to get across.

“I hope people will come away being moved by the beauty of it all at the end of it.”

Graduate from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and now parish priest of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Fairfield, Fr Benjamin Gandy, said the Stabat Mater is a poignant piece that gives audiences a glimpse into the sorrows of Mary as she follows her son up Calvary.

“In a very Franciscan fashion, the focus is on the humanity of our Lord in his Passion,” he said.

He recommends anyone who has been intrigued by its use throughout Holy Week to discover the text more deeply.

“It is a staple in our Catholic musical heritage and is a great way to engage with a rich history and tradition of the church and its music.”

“It helps us to meditate on some of the things Our Lady went through during our Lord’s passion. That’s important for all of us to discover.”

AHE will perform across Sydney, regional NSW and Canberra from 7 April before closing on 16 April at City Recital Hall.

The post Haydn Ensemble brings Stabat Mater to Sydney appeared first on The Catholic Weekly.

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