Stabat Mater - Artur Zagajewski

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The Mother of God in a crowd of people.


Scored for four choirs and chamber orchestra, Artur Zagajewski’s piece sounds a bit like music for a horror movie, full of unidentifiable moans and strange bubbling sounds. Though we know it is produced by humans, it sounds eminently demonic. ... In Zagajewski’s Stabat Mater, the words of the Latin sequence are barely comprehensible (“everybody knows what it’s about”). What counts is the awe-inspiring sound. The composer’s aesthetics comes close in this piece to the most extreme sonoristic explorations of the Polish school of composition. The multitude of sound effects brings to mind a gathering crowd which utters alarming shouts. 

Filip Lech, The Polish Paths of Stabat Mater, culture.pl 

The composer’s approach to the theme, taken up in outstanding compositions of the past ages, is unconventional and highly intriguing. He resigns from a conscientious musical setting of the text of a well-known medieval sequence in favour of expressing the emotions evoked in him by contact with this one of the crucial scenes in Christianity. For this purpose, he uses the sonic qualities of a mixed choir entering into various interactions with an original instrumental line-up. The composition’s drama brings to mind the reactions of the crowd of onlookers to the events under the Cross, which may be taken as a reference to the tradition of the Passion genre. The theme is presented in an extremely moving fashion, focusing on the tragic qualities in the scene rather than on a balanced reflection on Mary’s anguish. The composer makes very skilful use of human voices’ ability to merge into an acoustic magma. This determines the character of the opening section, leading to the main one, in which the bruitist treatment of the choir, shouting out individual text syllables, is supported by the chant-like “calls” of the wind instruments and by percussion effects. This striking piece, profound and clear at the same time on the level of purely musical narration, is worthy of being performed in the context of well-known works from the past dealing with the same subject. 

Marek Zwyrzykowski, programme note for the 2014 Polonica Nova Wrocław Music Award 

Stabat Mater, composed for Dawid Ber and the Arthur Rubinstein Philharmonic Chorus in Łódź, had its world premiere on 3 April 2012 during the Łódź Musical Easter festival. 

Artur Zagajewski