Antonín Dvořák set about composing his Stabat Mater following the crushing death of his daughter, in 1875. He resumed work in the autumn of 1877, when cruel fate had again deprived him of two more children. The composer created what is perhaps the most elaborate setting of this Marian hymn in the whole musical literature. He forged its monumental character through the highly emphatic repeats of textual phrases and slow ‘cortège’ tempi that dominate the work. This is an extremely focussed, contemplative and tender composition. The impression of homogeneity is not diminished by the fact that the composer employs a great variety of means. He shows himself to be a splendid symphonist: the orchestral part in this oratorio is particularly important and masterfully treated. The twenty strophes were set in the form of ten (unsymmetrical) sections with solo and ensemble parts, combined in various ways with choral passages. This work was first performed on 23 December 1880 in Prague (cond. Adolf Čech), and two years later a performance in Brno was led by a young Leoš Janáček. Particularly successful proved to be performances of Stabat Mater at the Royal Albert Hall in London (Dvořák’s highly successful debut as a conductor abroad) and in Birmingham in 1884.