Rossini: Stabat Mater

Sunday 13 March 2022, 5:00 pm

Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

Please note: this concert has taken place.

Although Rossini had long retired from the opera house by the time he composed his great Stabat Mater, nevertheless, like Verdi’s Requiem, it is full of operatic drama and excitement. Indeed, like Verdi’s Requiem, to which it might be compared, the work has aroused some controversy among those who think that it is almost too operatic to be a religious piece. Listeners, however, will soon realise that Rossini’s manner conceals a deeply-felt involvement with this medieval meditative poem on the Virgin Mary contemplating her son on the cross, which has inspired composers from all periods to give of their very best. Rossini composes many magnificent and demanding arias and ensembles for the soloists, all enhanced by his great melodic genius, but in his Stabat Mater he also reveals a hitherto little-explored aspect to his musical character by writing some tremendous choruses for the choir, culminating in a brilliant and passionate fugue with which to conclude the piece.

The programme also includes another piece of early 19th century romanticism, namely Mendelssohn’s overture The Hebrides, inspired by his lifelong love of Scotland and its dramatic scenery. The third piece, Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, a setting of words from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, looks forward to our major celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth later his year. VW composed it in 1938, to celebrate the 50thanniversary of the conducting debut of Sir Henry Wood. Perhaps more importantly, 1938 was also the year when VW met Ursula Wood, who would later become his second wife, and the Serenade contains some of the most purely sensuous, if not erotic, music which he ever wrote. Sergei Rachmaninov, who was present at the first performance, was reduced to tears when he heard it. VW originally wrote the Serenade for sixteen solo voices, but we will sing it in his later arrangement for full choir.

Conductor: Benjamin Nicholas

Soloist: Hye-Youn Lee (soprano) Jess Dandy (mezzo) Luciano Botelho (tenor) William Thomas (bass)

Orchestra: City of London Sinfonia

Duration: 105min

Tickets: £15-£40

Book by phone: Tickets Oxford 01865 305305

Full-time students and u-18s