There might just be a longer setting of the Stabat Mater text sitting unperformed in an aspiring composer's attic somewhere, but as far as the choral repertory is concerned, Dvorák's version is by far the longest. Completed in 1877, it was his first religious work since his student days, prompted by the death of his daughter Josefa and completed a year later after two more of his children had died in infancy. Given its length and the understandable prevailing sadness of the music, perhaps it's not surprising that performances are relatively rare, but as this recording from a performance conducted by Neeme Järvi at the Royal Festival Hall in London in October 2010 shows, it nevertheless contains moments of ravishing beauty, when it seems as if Dvorák was remembering happier, more tranquil times. It's the suave beauty of the orchestral writing that comes across most vividly from the London Philharmonic under Järvi. The solo and the choral singing are adequate rather than exceptional, and the text is often garbled, so it's sometimes impossible even to tell what language is being sung.
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