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Background

The theme of Mary is universal and timeless. Tales of Mary and the Immaculate Conception have inspired iconography and music of all shapes and styles; settings of ‘Ave Maria’ and other Marian devotional texts are widely used in weddings, funerals, and various movie soundtracks. From the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and the modern age, composers have set the Magnificat and numerous other Marian texts used in standard liturgy. For these eight contemporary composers, the challenge is how to reinterpret a sacred text in homage to pre-existing composers, yet in a unique language and with a sense of authenticity to their own time and place.

Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater is the foundation of LADY of LOVE and SORROW. It sets the traditional text describing Mary watching helplessly as her son dies on the cross. Because Mary believes her son to be the savior of the world, she also expresses her guilt for causing his death by her own sins. Through her son’s sacrifice, however, Mary believes that she and all believers will be saved and reunited in heaven.

LADY of LOVE and SORROW presents varying interpretations of Mary in a dialogue between ancient and modern, baroque and contemporary, Vivaldi’s vision of Mary and that of six contemporary composers. Commissioned specifically for this project, these composers reinterprete the vision of Mary in the 21st century. Theeight— Malcolm Archer, Vincent Bouchot, Jackson Hill, James Kennerly, Tarik O’Regan, Gregory Spears, Julian Wachner and Nicholas White— have all written pieces specifically for Mr. Angel for this project.

All eight original works in LADY of LOVE and SORROW are written with the same instrumentation and at the same pitch as that of the Vivaldi Stabat Mater: baroque string quartet and continuo with a pitch of A at 415. It is Mr. Angel’s intention to let the Baroque sensibility of the Stabat Mater inform all stylistic interpretations. At the same time, each Marian portrait is distinctive and colored with compositional techniques ranging from traditional to experimental, from Mary as a sacred icon to Mary as the subject of romantic love.