Johann Simon Mayr: Stabat Mater in F minor

review mayr x1 cong

This is a bit of a “what it says on the tin” CD. The music has been restored by Mayr expert Frans Hauk from two manuscript versions.

Mayr’s (1763-1845) Stabat Mater in F minor was singled out by a contemporary biographer “for its marvellous effect” and “heavenly beauty”, and he (or she) wasn’t wrong.

From the turn of the 18th century, the Stabat Mater (a 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary) was considered an expression of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and openness to Christ’s sufferings. According to the sleeve notes, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, written in 1736 for a brotherhood based in Naples, became famous.

Mayr held a range of Stabat Mater settings with instrumental accompaniment in his well-stocked music library at Bergamo Cathedral, where he was kapellmeister. (He introduced Beethoven’s music there, and taught Donizetti).

So: it’s devotional music inspired by a revered Catholic hymn, with strong performances from soloists, chorus and orchestra, including the Simon Mayr Choir, members of the Bavarian State Chorus, Concerto de Bassus and I Virtuosi Italiani.

Mayr apparently started his career wanting to write opera, but found jobs easier to get as a composer of church music. It’s rather inspirational, and beautiful; if you don’t want to go that far, it’s at the very least charming.

Mayr’s operatic bent means this is probably quite ornate for church music, too.

Out on Naxos 8.573781.

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