Saturday, 29 December 2018


Fans of 18th century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's stunningly austere setting of Stabat Mater may be surprised with the jubilant nature of his recently discovered mass, first revealed to the international press in late March 2018.

It seems, on face value, a rather odd pairing: buoyant vocal and orchestral dynamics set against the sacred text – one which contemporary composers of the Baroque era were apt to approach with a normally reserved - solemn, even – character.

Considered lost for some 300 years, the present version of the Mass in D Major was reconstructed from fragmented scores “scattered across different libraries” under the direction of musicologist Claudio Bacciagaluppi.

Two versions exist of the work – an earlier version, and the modern transcription, dating from c. 1733, of which an excerpt (of “Gloria in excelisis deo”) can be heard below.

As per Neapolitan tradition in the time of Pergolesi, the composer opted to set only the Kyrie movement and the Gloria of the ordinary of the mass.

It's assumed age, if indeed correct, parallels the composition of the B minor mass of his contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach, who would begin writing his setting of the ordinary in the same year, completing his work 1749 (Bach's mass is believed to have been consummated in 1859 by a performance, in its entirety, long after the composer's death in 1750.)

As some readers may already be aware, Bach counted among his musicians of influence the young Pergolesi (who died from complication arising from tuberculosis at the tender age of 26), famously arranging the latter's Stabat Mater into a non-Marian cantata based on a paraphrase of the German text of Psalm 51: “Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden," (BWV 1083.)

Just imagine what he could have done with Pergolesi's Mass!

Listen below to the world premiere recording of Pergolesi's Mass in D major, performed by Ghislieri Choir and Consort under Giulio Prandi (on the Arcana label.) Pergolesi's recently discovered work, which went on a quiet European 'tour' prior to the 2018 pressing, includes a motetto by the composer, Dignas Laudes Resonemus - a liturgical setting of a Latin text reconstructed from multiple versions of parts, and a fragment of a score held at the libraries of the Conservatory of Milan and the Abbey of Montecassino:

..and live from the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw, recorded 27 January, 2018:

More on this story (external links):
- Rose.

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