Gripped in the anguish of losing three children in a row, Dvorak poured himself into finishing this piece begun earlier at the death of his first infant daughter in 1875. First performed in 1880, the composer must have been deeply touched by the warm reception given him on the Continent and in North America.
Marked by emotional outbursts and then settling into serene pastoral sounds, this work is rhythmic in its movement from choruses to solos to ensembles.
Flowing around a well known 13thC text (by some felt to be da Todi's) concerning the Holy Mother's remorse at the crucifixion of her son Jesus -- this is emminent text and passion.
Such passion and sweet grief, e.g. "Who on Christ's dear Mother thinking such a cup of sorrow drinking, would not share her sorrow deep?"
My favorite turns out to be the popular alto solo "Inflammatus et accensus" "All my heart, inflamed and burning, Savior, now to Thee is turning; shield me in the Judment Day. By Thy Cross may I be guarded, meritless--yet be rewarded through Thy grace, O living Way."
Here performed by Oregan Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra conducted by renown Helmuth Rilling in a 1995 recording, the soloists are wonderful, especially soprano Marina Shaguch and Tenor James Taylor.
Dvorak's passionate work here with accompanying text in German, French and English is wonderful, inspirational comfort and work of serene beauty.