Feature: Arvo Pärt (b1935): Stabat Mater

Arvo Pärt Captioned SmallThe centrality of his faith for the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt comes through in this haunting setting of the Stabat Mater. For me it’s the piece that epitomises his blending of elements from the Renaissance and Medieval vocal styles with his signature use of tintinnabulation to create music that is distinguished by its simplicity and purity of utterance emphasised by being almost totally static in harmonic and melodic movement. Pärt’s intention is to invoke a meditative mood by using the repetition of rhythmic ‘cells’ to induce a meditative atmosphere and to encourage his listeners to share in this mood. It’s a very minimalist and yet very effective piece of music performed below by the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal. Enjoy :-).


Text & Translation: Stabat Mater

Stabat mater dolorosa
Iuxta crucem lacrimosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.
The mother was standing sorrowfully
next to the cross, tearful
as her Son was hanging.
Cuius animam gementem,
Contristatam et dolentem,
Pertransivit gladius.
Whose soul, groaning,
sad and sorrowful,
the sword has pierced through.
O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater unigeniti.
Oh, how miserable and afflicted
was that blessed
mother of an only Son.
Quae moerebat et dolebat,
Pia mater, cum videbat
Nati poenas inclyti.
She lamented and grieved,
the holy mother, when she saw
the pains of her glorious Son.
Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Christi matrem si videret
In tanto supplicio?
Who is the man that would not weep
were he to see the mother of Christ
in such distress?
Quis non posset contristari,
Christi matrem comtemplari
Dolentem cum Filio?
Who would not be made sad
at the thought of Christ’s mother
grieving with her Son?
Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Iesum in tormentis
Et flagellis subditum.
For the sins of his people
she saw Jesus subjected to
torments and lashes.
Vidit suum dulcem Natum
Moriendo desolatum,
Dum emisit spiritum.
She saw her sweet Son
dying, deserted
as he gave up his spirit.
Eia mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum lugeam.
O mother, thou fount of love,
make me feel the force of your grief
so that I may mourn with you.
Fac ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.
Make my heart burn
with love for Christ the God
so that I may be reconciled with him.
Sancta mater, istud agas
Crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.
Holy mother, grant this favour,
imprint the wounds of the Crucified
deeply within my heart.
Tui Nati vulnerari
Tam dignati pro me pati
Poenas mecum divide.
Your wounded Son,
who deigned to suffer so much for me,
may he share his pains with me.
Fac me vere tecum flere,
Crucifixo condolere
Donec ego vixero.
Let me truly weep with you,
and suffer with the Crucified
as long as I live.
Iuxta crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociare,
In planctu desidero.
To stand beside you at the cross
and join with you in lamentation,
is my desire.
Virgo virginum praeclara,
Mihi iam non sis amara,
Fac me tecum plangere.
O Virgin, pre-eminent among virgins,
do not be bitter towards me,
let me weep with you.
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem
Passionis fac consortem
Et plagas recolere.
Let me bear the death of Christ,
let me share in his passion,
and contemplate his wounds.
Fac me plagis vulnerari
Cruce hac inebriari
Ob amorem Filii.
Let me be wounded with his wounds,
intoxicated by the cross
and the blood of your Son.
Inflammatus et accensus
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die iudicii.
Though I burn and am aflame,
may I be defended by you, O Virgin,
on the day of judgement.
Fac me cruce custodiri
Morte Christi praemuniri
Confoveri gratia.
Let me be protected by the cross,
fortified by the death of Christ,
strengthened by grace.
Quando corpus morietur
Fac, ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.
When my body dies,
let my soul be granted
the glory of paradise.

2 thoughts on “Feature: Arvo Pärt (b1935): Stabat Mater

  1. I found this a very beautiful and moving “Stabat Mater”. It perfectly captures the deep sadness of Mary in a very simple and pure way. I am growing more and more fond of the music of Arvo Pärt with each new hearing. Very interesting how the Modern and Ancient structures blend harmoniously into a wonderfully new and unique expression. Also, it was beautifully performed by the Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal.

    Thank you Mark, my vistas are widening!

    Bro. John

    • He’s a wonderful composer whose music I very much like – it can sometimes take a bit of getting used to. I agree with you about the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal – every performance of theirs that I’ve heard has been very good, I wish they’d record more.


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