Stabant Matres: Meditations on Sorrow and Atonement

Meditations on sorrow and suffering constitute one of the most deeply felt themes in sacred music, and examples range from descriptions of the Passion of Christ drawn from the Gospels to the tender and poetic invocations of Jeremiah and Job to the Psalms’ prayers of lamentation.

Despite the passage of centuries and the wide variety of musical approaches adopted by composers, the spirit of profound emotion that infuses these compositions is palpable and readily accessible to contemporary listeners. Along with the extremely simple Gregorian antiphony that describes the scene in which Peter is recognized by a servant girl, then, we also find a rich and evocative image of Christ’s prayer on the Mount of Olives; similarly, Mary’s desperate entreaty, “Attend, all ye who pass by, and see if there be any sorrow like unto mine,” is accompanied by a moving contemplation of the torment of Christ upon the cross.


From a different perspective, we encounter the enigmatic and visionary gaze of Hildegard von Bingen, the mystic. Alongside her potent spirituality, what is striking is her continuous reference to blood as a mechanism for redemption and to its enormous power to purify and to lead to salvation. Von Bingen’s reference is to the blood of Christ, naturally, but is not limited to that: She refers as well to the blood of martyrs such as Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virginal handmaidens, whose sacrifice inspired von Bingen to compose an entire cycle of canti spirituali.


The first half of the concert is dedicated to the works of Hildegard von Bingen


Selected Performances


Verona, The Mimesis Association, May 13, 2000


Como, Basilica of San Fedele, April 4, 2004


Galliano Basilica of San Vincenzo, June 30, 2007


Concert for the Paolo Fagetti Foundation, February 9, 2008


Monza, Church of the Sacro Cuore, March 15, 2008