Soloists: Viktoria Yastrebova
and Lyubov Sokolova
Mariinsky Chorus and Orchestra
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Conductor: Mattia Rondelli
String Quartet in E Minor (arrangement for strings)
Quattro pezzi sacri
The String Quartet in E Minor is Giuseppe Verdi’s only chamber opus. The composer wrote it in Naples in 1873 between productions of the operas Don Carlo and Aida. As the prima donna had fallen ill, Verdi unexpectedly found he had some spare time on his hands – an incredibly rare occurrence in his life!
For three years the composer refused to allow the sheet music to be printed, until the publisher Giulio Ricordi insisted on it. With their serious education – based on classicism – Italian composers were able to assimilate the quartet technique (the young Donizetti composed no less than sixteen quartets), though instrumental music remained on the peripheries of their interests. On the other hand, Verdi positively embraced the territory then still occupied by Germans. In his quartet, the impeccably strict form and deliberate abundance of “academic” polyphonic techniques is combined with a certain liveliness and the originality of the material. The main theme of the first movement brings to mind Amneris’ jealousy. Flying in the face of the traditions of the quartet genre is the second movement – a delightful mazurka – while the third is an impetuous scherzo in the spirit of Beethoven and von Weber.
Arturo Toscanini, who undertook string orchestra arrangements of various works, also turned to this opus by Verdi.
The Quattro pezzi sacri (1898) were to be Giuseppe Verdi’s musical testament. The composer worked on them over the course of ten years. Each of the pieces was intended for a different instrumental ensemble and was composed in a different style, indicating the various paths and histories of religious music. When Italy lost its “musical face” Verdi set his sights on national traditions.
The Ave Maria for chorus without accompaniment has the secondary title of Enigmatic Scale Harmonised for Four Mixed Voices. Adolfo Crescentini published the Scale in 1889 in the Gazzetta musicale di Milano. With Verdi, the four lines are taken in turn by the bass, alto, tenor and soprano, while as a whole the piece is reminiscent of chromatic madrigals of the Renaissance era.
Stabat mater for soloists, chorus and orchestra is a very “human” piece, incredibly dramatic and contemporary in terms of style. Laudi alla Vergine Maria for children’s voices (voci bianche) to a non-canonical text (the first seven tercets of the final canto Paradiso by Dante), on the other hand, embody angelic song. In practice, this piece is most frequently performed by a female chorus.
The Te Deum for double chorus and triple orchestra also refers to tradition: the piece opens with a single-voice Gregorian chant. As soon as the entire chorus and orchestra join in, however, it becomes impossible not to recognise Verdi’s powerful signature style.