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Vocal  Frank Ferko: Stabat Mater 
Frank Ferko: Stabat Mater
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Frank Ferko: Stabat Mater
His Majestie's Clerkes
Nancy Gustafson, soprano
Anne Heider, conductor
Cedille Records CDR 90000 051

"10/10 -- It as been a long time since a major new choral work could make such a good first impression . . . Powerful and painfully beautiful music . . . A real find." (

"If Ferko's Stabat Mater is not a masterpiece, it comes closer to being one than any contemporary composition I have heard in recent years . . . a transcendently beautiful work . . . crafted with a masterful hand . . . Give this recording a chance and you will discover much glorious music, as well as a greatly gifted and compelling new voice on the music scene." (Fanfare)

Composer Frank Ferko's majestic new Stabat Mater (The Mother Stood) broadens the embrace of this profound medieval hymn depicting Mary at the Crucifixion. Ferko supplements the original Latin text on the theme of premature death with passages from classical Greek drama and modern verse.

Ferko (b. 1950) composed his Stabat Mater in 1998 for the a capella mixed choir His Majestie's Clerkes. The Chicago Tribune pronounced their concert premiere of Ferko's Stabat Mater a classical highlight of 1999: "a marvelously intricate and sincerely devout tour de force that showed off the Clerke's disciplined, sensitive, and uncommonly nuanced singing." Writer Ted Shen asked rhetorically, "When will Frank Ferko be recognized for what he is, a talented and erudite innovator of old vocal genres?" With his fugal writing, Ferko "plays" the choir like an organ. Not surprisingly, Ferko is a veteran church organist and choral director as well as composer. He holds a doctorate in music composition from Northwestern University, where he studied with Alan Stout.

"Musically, Ferko's Stabat Mater eschews trendy, stupefying 'mystic minimalism,'" says Cedille Records producer Jim Ginsburg. "Its soaring, virtuosic choral scoring demands resiliency, vocal dexterity, and precision ensemble work."

In his Stabat Mater, Ferko links the original Latin text to tragic events of the recent and distant past, inserting English texts by twentieth-century poets Padraic Pearse (on Irish political violence); Charlotte Mayerson (whose son died of AIDS); and Sally M. Gall, along with passages from the Gospel of St. Luke and Euripedes' The Trojan Women (translated by Richmond Lattimore).

The work consists of 25 miniature pieces (20 Latin stanzas and five English interpolations) "that fit together much like a mosaic," Ferko writes in the CD booklet. Musically, the composition employs "old-fashioned" concepts: tonal centers, church modes, major and minor keys, counterpoint, and melody. The music digresses occasionally, "but there is a basic tonal framework for the entire composition," Ferko writes. He describes the tonal center as progressing through two "arches," from E to B-flat and from B-flat back to E --"and beyond, in the final chorale."

go to Frank Ferko's own website.

go to His Majestie's Clerkes (now known as Bella Voce) own website.
Click here to download the CD booklet.

Click the Cedille Player at the upper left to hear excerpts from the tracks highlighted in red below. These have been carefully chosen as representative of the recording program.

PROGRAM (54:37)

Frank Ferko (b. 1950): Stabat Mater

1. Introduction (1:44)
2. Stabat Mater (2:34)
3. Cujus animam gementem (1:21)
4. O quam tristis (1:02)
5. Quae maerebat (2:28)
6. I. Andromaches Lament (7:00)
7. Quis est homo (0:59)
8. Quis non posset (0:39)
9. Pro peccatis (0:50)
10. Vidit suum (2:32)
11. II. The Mother (3:53)
12. Eia mater (2:31)
13. Fac ut ardeat (1:13)
14. Sancta mater (1:26)
15. Tui nati (1:45)

III. From "The Death Cycle Machine":
16. Layout (0:42)
17. Haiku for an East Asian Scholar (0:37)
18. Ancho y Ajeno (0:47)
19. RSVP (1:07)
20. Fac me tecum (3:50)
21. Juxta crucem (2:23)
22. Virgo virginum (1:24)
23. Fac ut portem (1:44)
24. Elegy (2:54)
25. Fac me plagis (0:46)
26. Flammis ne (0:48)
27. Christe cum sit (1:32)
28. Quando corpus (3:07)

Recorded: August 18-20, 1999 at Mallinckrodt Chapel, Wilmette, IL / Producer: James Ginsburg / Engineer: Bill Maylone / Cover: Jacopo Palma il Giovane, Lamentation (c. 1620). Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. / Design: Melanie Germond / Notes: Frank Ferko