Poulenc's Stabat Mater

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Francis Poulenc composed his Stabat Mater, for soprano, mixed chorus and orchestra, during 1950 and 1951. The first performance took place at the Strasbourg Festival on April 22, 1951.

The composition, in the form of a "grand motet," is a setting of a thirteenth-century hymn in Latin attributed to Jacopone da Todi. The hymn is about the reaction of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the crucifixion of her son Jesus. "Stabat Mater" means "the mother was standing." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980) describes Poulenc's Stabat Mater as "a powerful and profoundly moving work."

Poulenc was moved to write the work by the death of a friend, Christian Bérard, a painter and set designer.

Poulenc's Stabat Mater is in twelve movements:

1. Stabat mater dolorosa (Très calme)
2. Cujus animam gementem (Allegro molto--Très violent)
3. O quam tristis (Très lent)
4. Quae moerebat (Andantino)
5. Quis est homo (Allegro molto--Prestissimo)
6. Vidit suum (Andante)
7. Eja mater (Allegro)
8. Fac ut ardeat (Maestoso)
9. Sancta mater (Moderato--Allegretto)
10. Fac ut portem (To. de Sarabande)
11. Inflammatus et accensus (Animé et très rythmé)
12. Quando corpus (Très calme)

Latin Text of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa, with English translation

Stabat Mater dolorosa
juxta crucem lacrymosa
dum pendebat Filius.


The mother was standing full of sorrow, weeping near the cross, while on it her son was hanging.

Cuius aninam gementem,
contristatam ac dolentem
pertransivit gladius.


A sword pierced her sighing soul, saddened and suffering.

O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigeniti!


Oh how sad and afflicted was that blessed one, the Mother of the Only Begotten!

Quae moerebat et dolebat
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati poenas inclyti.


The virtuous mother was lamenting and grieving, while she saw the punishments of her glorious Son.

Quis est homo qui non fleret
Matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?


Who is there who would not weep to see the Mother of Christ in such torture?

Quis non posset contristari,
Matrem Christi contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?

Who cannot be saddened, to contemplate the Mother of Christ grieving with her Son?

Pro peccatis suae gentis
vidit Jesum in tormentis
et flagellis subditum.


For the sins of his people, she saw Jesus placed in torments and scourges.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum
morientem desolatum
dum emisit spiritum.


She saw her sweet Son dying desolate while he sent forth his spirit.

Eia Mater, fons amoris,
me sentire vim doloris,
fac, ut tecum lugeam.


Ah Mother, fountain of love, make me feel the force of your sorrow, so that I may mourn with you.

Fac ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum,
ut sibi complaceam.


Make my heart be on fire in loving Christ, my God, so that I may please him also.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifixi figi plagas
cordi meo valide.


Holy Mother, do that, fix strongly on my heart the wounds of the Crucified One.

Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide.


Share with me the punishments of your wounded Son who so deigned to suffer for me.

Fac me tecum vere flere,
crucifixo condolere,
donec ego vixero.


Make me truly weep with you, to suffer with the Crucified One, as long as I shall live.

Juxta crucem tecum stare,
te libenter sociare
in planctu desidero.

I wish to stand near the cross with you, to share willingly in the lamentation.

Virgo virginum praeclara,
mihi iam non sis amara:
fac me tecum plangere.


Distinguished virgin of virgins, be not bitter to me now: let me grieve with you.

Fac ut portem Christi mortem,
passionis fac consortem
et plagas recollere.


Make me bear the death of Christ, make me be a sharer of his passion and recollect his blows.

Fac me plagis vulnerari,
cruce hac inebriari
ob amorem Filii.


Make me wounded with the blows, to be inebriated by this cross because of love of the Son.

Inflammatus et accensus,
per te, Virgo, sim defensus
in die iudicii.


Kindled and inflamed for you, Virgin, may I be defended on the day of judgment.

Christe, cum sit hunc exire,
da per Matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriae.


Christ, when I must go hence, let me come for the sake of Your Mother to the palm of victory.

Quando corpus morietur,
fac ut animae donetur,
paradisi gloria.


When my body dies, grant that the glory of paradise be given to my soul. Amen!


Translation copyright 2000-2004 John R. Pierce




An excellent recording of Poulenc's Stabat Mater, and of his Gloria as well, features Kathleen Battle, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa.  Available from

Poulenc: Stabat Mater & Gloria, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Kathleen Battle, Seiji Ozawa,


Robert Shaw conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with soloist Christine Goerke in a recording of Poulenc's Stabat Mater on the same compact disc as a recording of Karol Szymanowski's Stabat Mater.


Poulenc - Gloria; Stabat Mater; Litanies à la Vierge noire

Catherine Dubosc, Westminster Singers, City of London Sinfonia, conducted by Richard Hickox



February 4, 2000

I attended a performance of Poulenc's Stabat Mater by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink with soprano soloist Dominique Labelle and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The chorus was very good, at times a bit more vigorous than I would have wished. Their enunciation of the Latin text was generally quite clear. Dominique Labelle, whom I have liked very much in performances of other works (a Verdi Requiem at MIT and Haydn's The Creation at Carnegie Hall), was somewhat disappointing. The soprano has a relatively small part, but she is called on to sing beautifully and loudly. Labelle's voice unfortunately was not especially beautiful, nor did it soar quite loudly enough for the words "paradisi gloria" near the end. Kathleen Battle did a much better job in her recording with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


My e-mail address is: johnrpierce








Poulenc: Stabat Mater, @