Pergolesi/BSG: Stabat Mater Dolorosa (voices and strings, not quartet)

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Uploaded on May 7, 2015

My new (May 2015) rewrite of the iconic first movement of G.B. da Pergolesi's renowned Stabat Mater (1736), as Bach rewrote some of its other movements, with an active, contrapuntal motivic viola and fortified contrapuntal energy.

This offering grew out of my attempt to enhance Mike Magatagan's setting of this movement as a string quartet (the former: https://musescore.com/user/1831606/scores/839761), but the present opus has restored Pergolesi's scoring, retaining none of Mike's adaptations to string quartet disposition.

J. S. Bach rewrote/adapted Pergolesi's work (obviously some time between 1736 and 1750) for Lutheran use, replacing its Marian text with a(n uneven) German paraphrase of the Miserere (Psalm LI), sacrificing Pergolesi's (uneven) word and mood painting. The result, "Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden" (BWV 1083), is artistically a bit of a curio, but offers great insight into Bach's techniques in converting an established, already-beloved masterpiece of the Italian Baroque into (something like) "Bach".

In several movements, notably (and puzzlingly) not this first, the Thomaskantor either discarded the extant viola part, or added one where there was none. Pergolesi's viola parts (in this work) are profoundly boring, and do not justify having a violist at all; more often than not, they simply double the bass at the octave or unison, only occasionally holding independent parts in long-notes that seem like continuo, then ducking back into bass-doubling at inopportune times. This is probably not because Pergolesi lacked skill, but because of the self-sufficiency of trio textures such as this first movement as they stand; a fourth part really has nothing to add, and finds lack of unused contrapuntal space. Perhaps the violist had the baroque equivalent of a union card, and had to play. In attempting to adapt the movement to a string quartet texture, Mike ran into the exact same issue.

Bach's approach in these movements was to create a bold viola part that really had something different and special to say, hewing out its own space, a new actor on the stage with its own material, arguably corrupting Pergolesi's authorship, intent, and integrity, but satisfying Bach's own requirements for musical interest. Not an adaptation for different forces or circumstances, but a thorough recomposition.

I have attempted to do the same here, adding a viola part built of "sospiri", sighing figures, and poignant leaps, suspensions and chromaticisms as are expectable in supplementary viola parts, articulating its own material and motifs, a third party to the canon of the treble duo and its suspensions ("dum pendebat Filius"?) and the constant-walking continuo. The viola demands attention, which is good and bad. I have also added appoggiature to all upper parts, even the vocal parts, reinforcing the canon, providing linking motivery for the viola to imitate, and adding spicy Bachian dissonance.

I occasionally juggled voicings of chords to advance better viola riffs; I kept Mike's quarter-note notation for the long-appoggiatura endings because appoggiature are a big problem in MuseScore, whose mandarins believe that the appropriate cut-in to a dotted quarter is a quarter, not an eighth. I retained Pergolesi's viola part on occasion (e.g., mm 29-31, 33-36) when I really had nothing better to say. I have supplied dynamics from the Alfred Einstein (Eulenberg) edition. I don't think they're Pergolesi's (although terraced dynamic markings are not uncommon for the era, even in Bach).

I really love the Pergolesi Stabat Mater, and you should, too, but this work is offered to the honor of J.S. Bach.

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And now, a humorous anecdote about this most dolorous piece:

I first learned about this work when I heard a TV program of "sad music" in the days following the assassination of Robert Kennedy (1968). It was performed with two choral sections, of boys, if I recall. I was swept away by its beauty. I did not know what it was, and wrote the network, asking for the name and the composer.

Weeks later, I received a postcard: "Dear Mr. G: The name of the piece you heard is the 'Pergolese Stabat Mater.' Unfortunately, we were unable to determine the composer."

[5/14/15 - added viola trill m. 11]

Pergolesi Stabat Mater Adaptation Rewrite viola counterpoint Bach

Pages 4
Duration 04:46
Measures 47
Key signature 4 flats
Parts 6
Part names Violin(2), Viola, Voice(2), Cello
Privacy Everyone can see this score
License None (All rights reserved)
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