Karl Jenkins' Stabat Mater
My parents recently went to a performance of Karl Jenkins' Stabat Mater and bought me a CD. I have mixed emotions about it. On the one hand the music really is good, but ... and it's two really big buts ...
Jenkins mixes "ethnic" music into his compositions so often that it's beginning to get a bit hackneyed and cheap. These sections don't fit well with the rest, and give the impression of only being there to be "right on".
A far bigger "but" concerns his treatment of the text. For a meditation on the desolation of a mother at the brutal torture and execution of her son, the music is, at least in places, far too light and catchy. What is more, although the CD liner notes provide a translation, the setting doesn't seem to pay much attention to the actual meaning. For example, the verse:
Cuius animam gementem / contristatam et dolentem / pertransivit gladius.
ends with the last line repeated (fair enough, this is common and doesn't detract from the meaning) - but then the last word is repeated, and even worse is repeated in a major key in a way that makes it seem heroic and triumphant! So what's actually being sung is:
Through her weeping soul, / compassionate and grieving, / a sword passed.
a sword passed.
a sword! Hurrah!
The treatment of the very first verse ain't great either. It's as if he came up with a fantastic tune and only later tried to set the words to it instead of writing the music for the words. Because he runs out of syllables a bit early, the opening verse:
Stabat mater dolorosa / iuxta Crucem lacrimosa, / dum pendebat Filius
comes out as:
Stabat mater dolorosa / iuxta Crucem lacrimosa, / dum pendebat Filiuuu-uuuuu-uuu-uuu-uuuu-uuuus
Oh dear. 7 out of 10 for the music, but as my Latin masters used to say, "3 out of 10, must try harder". Overall, a mere 4 out of 10. The seeming ignorance of the text spoilt it terribly for me.