Pergolesi/Magatagan/BSG: Stabat Mater Dolorosa quartet

Uploaded on May 4, 2015

Perhaps this is supremely arrogant. Starting from Mike Magatagan's beautiful string quartet arrangement (https://musescore.com/mike_magatagan/scores/814576), I crafted my own, which does not really pretend to be a "correction" of Mike's work, but of Pergolesi's. Going through Mike's arrangement, I found that the majority of details I found I could not abide were not Mike's, but Pergolesi's, in particular, vast passages of no-thought viola "writing" simply doubling the bass, which happens throughout the Stabat Mater ("col basso" often appears in a 1749 score on IMSLP), and occasionally the viola just flops submissively into the bass.

This betrays more than the usual quantum of arrogance, for not only am I "improving" one of the best-loved movements of the Baroque, then and now (Jean-Jacques Rousseau called it "the most perfect and touching duet by any composer" [Wikipedia]), but I am also dealing with a previous attempt to do so by a certain Herr Bach, the cantor of St. Thomas' in Leipzig, who rewrote this masterpiece on the basis of similar objections.

Oddly, this Herr Bach did very, very little to the first movement (BWV 1083), and left it pretty much as Pergolesi had it; in other movements, he slashed away and added all kinds of interest. But not in the iconic first movement. So I have taken the arrogant liberty of "finishing" his work by the wholesale rewrite of the viola part with new thematic and harmonic material.

It is humbling to think that even the greatest Baroque composers other than Bach were all rough approximations to Bach (even if they didn't know it).

In the work as I have left it today (7 May 2015), I have essentially added a third actor to the given screenplay, to the canonic duo of suspension ("dum pendebat"?) chains (first stated in the upper parts in mm. 1-5), and the walking bass, adding a viola dolorosa lamenting in poignant "sighing" figures (sospiri), adding suspended sevenths and fourths and appoggiature to complement Pergolesi's sparse rhythm and harmony. I have exploited (and added) figures in the upper parts, importing them into the viola at other times and intervals, all the tighter to bind the whole.

See what you think.

"Tech notes"

Pergolesi’s original calls for two vocal parts (performances differ on whether they be soli or chori) in addition to the strings; his two violins double the vocal parts when the latter sing; the texture is basically a trio, and the viola is like a third wheel, which he occasionally commits to doubling the bass for measures at a stretch, and other times commits to half-note riffs strewn with questionable doublings and barely hidden fifths (the latter I have left alone). In Mike’s quartet texture, the viola is more exposed and cannot duck responsibility as in Pergolesi’s, and to this end I have written the present active part. Students of canon will realize that the famous chain of 3-2 suspensions and jumps of upward fourths which opens the movement is actually a canon at the second (cf., the “Recordare” from Mozart’s “Requiem”). I have generally left the two violins/soli alone, but for correcting some bad doubling in m. 21, reorganizing 31 and 42 for a better viola part (and eliminating spurious doublings), and, notably, supplying mm. 14-15 with an anticipation and “explaining” appoggiature to remedy what I considered an unacceptable tritone (Bb->E upward) in Pergolesi’s score, meanwhile promoting the canon with parallel dissonance resolutions for a very Bachian effect. I rewrote the double-counterpoint in 19-21 to be correct, restoring Pergolesi's theme and countermelody and adding some gratuitous rhythmic interest.

[5/5/2015 - I restored Pergolesi's bass rhythms, inserted strategic eighth-rests in the viola part to complement the former, borrowed Mike's superlative Bb-Ab trill for m.17, all'8va, and added a bit more. I added complexity to P's half-note viola riffs to mitigate the hidden fifths, and add more opportunities for motivic imitation).

Pergolesi Stabat Mater Bach rewrite viola counterpoint

Pages 3
Duration 4:46
Measures 47
Key signature 4 flats
Parts 4
Part names Violin (2)
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I have reworked this piece anew from Pergolesi's score, detaching from Mike's work, with (MS) voices and dynamics and other frills. If you like this, you will surely like that; you should compare and contrast them.: https://musescore.com/user/1831606/scores/849786 The documentation there is more coherent, too.

Bernie, I whole-heatedly agree! no need to tap-dance around my mistakes. I really like your work on this (and others) and I really, really appreciate all your advice! I wish I had your background and level or knowledge and, maybe some of it will rub-off! I work mainly by ear and do not have the kind of musical background that allows me to see and even hear the subtleties. I'll post a link to here on my site so that others can see. Thank you for posting this. Keep up the great work.

In reply to by Mike Magatagan

You certainly had some mistakes (mainly doublings) that I can point out in detail, but the point here is (1) so did Pergolesi and (2) apparently JSB said "oh, wassoimmer! [whatever!]" and was short on time that day and left them. I consider this an independent composition of mine, in which I am acknowledging debt to Pergolesi, to Bach, and to you.

Note importantly that I use some slightly wild chords, introduce suspensions other than those for which the mvt is famous, and motivic imitation on offbeats to create interest.