Stabat mater speciosa

While reading up about the Stabat Mater in preparation for my Easter listening this year, I discovered that there are actually two medieval Marian hymns by that name.  They can be distinguished by referring to the first three words of the hymn instead of just the first two.

Without a doubt, the more famous one is the Stabat mater dolorosa, which is what people are generally referring to when they talk about the Stabat Mater.  This is essentially a meditation on Mary’s experience of seeing her son crucified, and is the Stabat Mater I was referring to in my previous post.  As mentioned in that post (to which I put a link at the start of this one), there are many musical settings of this poem.

The other is the Stabat mater speciosa, which is all about Mary’s joy when she receives the news that she is to be the mother of the Saviour of the world.  This seems to have been rather less frequently set to music.  In fact, the only setting I’ve been able to track down so far (at least to the point of actually being able to listen to it) is the one found in the middle of the first section of Liszt’s Christus, a three part oratorio on the life of Christ, of which the first part is about the Christmas story.  This is a fine work, not entirely dissimilar to Handel’s (rather better known) Messiah, but perhaps on a somewhat grander scale.  I only came across it earlier this year when my reading about the Stabat Mater (Dolorosa — the only one I knew about at the time) turned it up, but I’m glad to have made its acquaintance.

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