The Music of Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) Part I: Stabat Mater – YouTube

Agostino Steffani (1654-1728)Clergyman, diplomat, musician, composer, Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) had an extraordinary life. His music is largely forgotten today but during his life it was very well thought by the public and by his fellow composers including his friend Handel.  He was born in 1654 at Castelfranco in the Province of Treviso and started his musical life as a choirboy in St Mark’s Basilica , Venice, when he was 12 the beauty of his voice attracted the attention of Count Tattenbach who brought him to Munich to sing and receive musical education at the Court of  Prince Ferdinand Maria the Elector of Bavaria including one year of tuition in Rome at the Elector’s expense , his skill, intelligence, and diligence meant that he soon was being granted appointments starting with the position of court musician, rising to chamber musician, and then director of the court’s music and court organist. He remained at the Electoral court for  twenty-one years. He left Munich in 1688 for a post at the Court of the Elector of Hannover where he befriended and showed great kindness to Handel and was befriended by Leibniz . Ten years later in 1698 he was invited to take up residence at at the court of Johann Wilhelm II the  Elector Palatine, at Düsseldorf. His diplomatic career dates from at least 1680 when he was ordained as priest and appointed as protonotarius apostolicus by Pope Innocent XI for whom he successfully undertook several diplomatic missions who made him a Bishop and "Vicario Apostolico delle Missioni Settentrionali," a post that involved considerable diplomatic work at various North German courts. There was a downside to this promotion which was that as a senior diplomat and personal episcopal representative of the Pope it would have been a severe breach of etiquette for Steffani to publish operas under his own name a restriction that he got around by publishing them under the name of his secretary Gregorio Piva. In 1695 he published a pamphlet, ‘Sui Principii della Musica’ discussing how music is grounded on nature and science.

His surviving music consisting of  chamber duets, operas and religious music is of very high quality – it’s easy to see reading the scores or listening to the few recordings that have been made why his contemporaries held his music in such esteem he was an important figure in the development of German opera while his duets make him a worthy successor to Carissmi and foreshadowed Handel. His extant religious work  includes, a nine-part polychoral ‘Laudate pueri’ an eight-part ‘Psalmodia Vespertina‘ and the six-part accompanied ‘Stabat Mater‘  which is the subject of this posting and which was often compared favourably to Alessandro Scarlatti’s work, he himself considered it to be his greatest work. It’s a very touching piece of music an eloquent and elegaic portrayal of grief which never lapses in being maudlin and  whose last movement is truly compelling. I defy anyone to listen to how he treats the text at  ‘Quando morietur …’ – (When I shall die…) and remain unmoved. It’s sung below by the Coro della Radio Svizzera under Diego Fasolis. Enjoy :-).


Video Source: Agostino Steffani – Stabat Mater  – YouTube Published on Nov 27, 2012 by alessandroschaunard

Text: Stabat Mater


Stabat mater dolorosa
Iuxta crucem lacrimosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.

Cuius animam gementem,
Contristatam et dolentem,
Pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater unigeniti.

Quae moerebat et dolebat,
Pia mater, cum videbat
Nati poenas inclyti.

Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Christi matrem si videret
In tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari,
Christi matrem comtemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Iesum in tormentis
Et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum
Moriendo desolatum,
Dum emisit spiritum.

Eia mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta mater, istud agas
Crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.

Tui Nati vulnerari
Tam dignati pro me pati
Poenas mecum divide.

Fac me vere tecum flere,
Crucifixo condolere
Donec ego vixero.

Iuxta crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare,
In planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum praeclara,
Mihi iam non sis amara,
Fac me tecum plangere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem
Passionis fac consortem
Et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari
Cruce hac inebriari
Ob amorem Filii.

Inflammatus et accensus
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die iudicii.

Fac me cruce custodiri
Morte Christi praemuniri
Confoveri gratia.

Quando corpus morietur
Fac, ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.

The mother was standing sorrowfully
next to the cross, tearful
as her Son was hanging.

Whose soul, groaning,
sad and sorrowful,
the sword has pierced through.

Oh, how miserable and afflicted
was that blessed
mother of an only Son.

She lamented and grieved,
the holy mother, when she saw
the pains of her glorious Son.

Who is the man that would not weep
were he to see the mother of Christ
in such distress?

Who would not be made sad
at the thought of Christ’s mother
grieving with her Son?

For the sins of his people
she saw Jesus subjected to
torments and lashes.

She saw her sweet Son
dying, deserted
as he gave up his spirit.

O mother, thou fount of love,
make me feel the force of your grief
so that I may mourn with you.

Make my heart burn
with love for Christ the God
so that I may be reconciled with him.

Holy mother, grant this favour,
imprint the wounds of the Crucified
deeply within my heart.

Your wounded Son,
who deigned to suffer so much for me,
may he share his pains with me.

Let me truly weep with you,
and suffer with the Crucified
as long as I live.

To stand beside you at the cross
and join with you in lamentation,
is my desire.

O Virgin, pre-eminent among virgins,
do not be bitter towards me,
let me weep with you.

Let me bear the death of Christ,
let me share in his passion,
and contemplate his wounds.

Let me be wounded with his wounds,
intoxicated by the cross
and the blood of your Son.

Though I burn and am aflame,
may I be defended by you, O Virgin,
on the day of judgement.

Let me be protected by the cross,
fortified by the death of Christ,
strengthened by grace.

When my body dies,
let my soul be granted
the glory of paradise.

Series NavigationThe Music of Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) Part II: Cecilia Bartoli – Mission – Les musiques d’Agostino Steffani à Versailles – YouTube >>

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