Parafrasi del Christus
Sacred cantata for soprano, alto and strings (1844 version)
PDF sample pages
In June of 1842 Donizetti was appointed Court Composer and director of the Imperial Chapel at Vienna. Circumstances apparently not as rosy as they sound: “Written during six months of doing nothing and six more of resting” was the composer’s wry comment on his situation in a letter to his friend Dolci.
His duties were fulfilled with a few brief Offertories. The two longer works composed for the Chapel, the Miserere in G minor and the Parafrasi del Christus, are actually rearrangements of earlier compositions. In a letter to his brother-in-law Donizetti writes: “In ’29 I did it in Naples; in ’44, reworked, cleaned up and elegantly attired, it shines in the Imperial and Royal Library of Vienna”.
The only source for the work is the autograph score of this second version, entitled Parafrasi del Xtus - Per due voci Sop. e Contr. di Donizetti/1844. This manuscript is preserved at the library of San Pietro a Majella Conservatory in Naples.
With text by Serafino Gatti, soprano and mezzo-soprano - perhaps personifying Mary and John beneath the Cross - meditate on the shameful sacrificial death of Christ and his glorious elevation. Donizetti pushes the limits of the customary sacred music of his time and creates a kind of religious opera, which on the one hand is linked to Bellini’s bel canto and on the other already anticipates the dramatic power of Verdi’s church compositions. The work is in four movements, opening - interestingly - in F minor, like Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater”.
Dallas, Texas, October 2009
(recorded live at Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, Dallas,
Texas, on October 13, 2009
Lucy Creech, soprano, Natalie Arduino, Mezzo-soprano, Vesselin Demirev and Kurt Sprenger, violin, Norbert Gerl, viola,
Francesco Mastromatteo, violoncello, Chris Pike, bass)
- “Per pietà del peccatore”
2. Andante sostenuto - “E qual morte egli sostenne?”
3. Moderato - “Della gloria al seggio eterno”
4. Larghetto - Allegro vivace - “Diegli un nome assai possente”
Video clips are available here