The late Robert Shaw, who died in January 1999, had a long and fruitful relationship with Telarc, spanning twenty years and producing 41 recordings, eleven of which have won Grammy Awards. The current recording is the final one to be made by the conductor. Included on the second disc is a spoken interview of Shaw made by National Public Radio's© Martin Goldsmith, host of "Performance Today."© The interview was made in November 1998, just after the recording sessions for the Dvorak Stabat Mater, and features Shaw discussing his career, this work, and the state of the choral art. Portions of the interview were originally broadcast over NPR on April 2, 1999.
The Stabat Mater was written by Dvorak in direct response to personal and private grief—when he began the work, in 1876, he and his wife had recently lost a baby daughter, who had lived only two days. Other work intervened requiring the composer to set the Stabat Mater aside, but he soon resumed it in 1877 after losing two more children in quick succession—a baby daughter to accidental poisoning, and his three-year-old son to smallpox.
The work was premiered in Prague in 1880, by which time Dvorak had risen from obscurity and poverty to become an internationally known composer. In 1883, the London premiere of the Stabat Mater met with such success that Dvorak was invited to come to England to conduct the work. He did so, conducting an enormous orchestra and chorus in the Royal Albert Hall in 1884.
In the CD booklet for this recording, Telarc President Robert Woods, longtime friend of Shaw and producer of most of his recordings on the Telarc label, offers a moving personal reflection on his experiences at the recording sessions for the Stabat Mater.
"I had the pleasure of making many recordings with Robert Shaw during our twenty-year relationship," said Woods, "during which I enjoyed numerous special and moving moments. But this," he continued, "was a truly unique and exceptional experience."