Quattro pezzi sacri

Published in 1898, the 85-year-old Giuseppe Verdi completed his oeuvre with Four Sacred Pieces (Quattro pezzi sacri). The series received its premi?re on 7 April 1898 in the Paris Opera (without the Ave Maria, in keeping with Verdi’s wish). Composed in 1889, Ave Maria (No. 1) for four solo voices (or mixed choir) was inspired by the enigmatic scale published by a musical journal, inviting composers to harmonise it. In Verdi’s setting the scale is sung on long notes in the four verses in different parts, with the bass singing it first, followed by the alto, tenor and soprano. Stabat Mater (No. 2, 1896–1897) is for mixed choir and a large orchestra. The passages describing the Virgin Mary’s agonies are interrupted by dramatic outbursts, and the passages about flames and the Last Judgement are reminiscent of the Dies irae of the Requiem. Laudi alla Vergine Maria (no. 3) for four solo female voices or female choir is though to have been composed in 1888. The Italian text “The prayer to the Virgin” is from Paradise Canto XXXIII of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Verdi composed the Te Deum (No. 4) in 1895–1896 for two mixed choirs and large orchestra. The elderly maestro liked the Te Deum best of the four sacred pieces and wanted to be buried with the score.