Antonín Dvorak’s daughter Josefa died on 21 September 1875. In response to this bereavement, Dvorak composed the initial version of his Stabat Mater – for four soloists, choir, and piano – between 19 February and 7 May 1876. He then set the work aside without orchestrating it. Soon after this, he lost his other two children in the space of a few weeks, his daughter Ružena on 13 August and his son Otokar on 8 September 1877. At this point he returned to the manuscript abandoned the previous sacred music and established him notably in Great Britain, where his reputation was to remain firm for the rest of his life.
This rarely recorded masterpiece has also inspired Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent. Along with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, they strip the work of all Romantic excess. The result is a spiritual journey from the sombre opening bars to the final Amen, underlining the universal grandeur of this major work of sacred music.