AAAC 05/11/19: Szymanowski Stabat Mater - Rattle/CBSO

When I saw the AAAC timetable I thought I would have the first post Brexit offering. Hasn’t happened, but we will go with it…

The Stabat Mater poem

has been set by a number of composers, most famously Pergolesi and Rossini. However, nobody does out of the depths musical misery like Eastern Europe, except possibly Phil Collins for other reasons, so I have gone for the setting by Karol Szymanowski. (Polish connection to misery seemed appropriate for Brexit…)

I am not a fan of Simon Rattle. His career is basically a triumph of enthusiastic hair over musical understanding, but on this one occasion he has (a bit like the Gergiev Duke Bluebead’s Castle on LSO Live, which was another possibility. Plot summary: woman makes bad decision, is warned it is bad decision, goes through with it anyway and discovers just how bad a decision it is. Hence Brexit…) done something wonderful somehow. At least in the Stabat Mater and the Litany, the 3rd symphony is meh. Enjoy, if that is the right word…

Spotty link:

Other links would also be appreciated…

  1. Yes, this is an Easter themed piece in October. Stick a Bakewell cherry on your hot cross bun and deal with it.

  2. The Irish backstop has gone from Brexit, which took out the option of a Bax symphony.


The Szymanowski is one of my favourite Stabat Mater settings.As you say, a wonderful piece of Eastern European musical misery but that sits really well with the context of the words. The performance is quite superb for me and captures the essence of the composition.

I recently did a presentation for the Classical Musical Group of my local U3A on settings of the Stabat Mater, about 90 minutes worth of extracts from 12 different composers. I really enjoyed the exercise, listening to some CDs that hadn’t seen the light of day for a few years ! Try the settings by Herbert Howells, Charles Stanford and James Macmillan for something home-grown as well.

Ah, Bax, that would be good as well, sadly under-rated over the years.


Got that on the Naxos recording, good but not quite up there with Hymnus Paradisi.

Fair comment about Hymnus Paradisi, probably Howells’ best large scale choral composition IMHO.

This I really liked. Not a huge fan of Rattle but it still scores 5/5.

1 Like