Four pieces of sacred music. The text of the Ave Maria is by Arrigo Boito.
Première: Paris, Opéra, April 7th, 1898.
Each conceived and composed separately by Verdi over the course of a decade, the Four Sacred Pieces were published by Ricordi in 1898, only a few years before the death of the Maestro (1901).
At first the pieces were not intended for performance, but Verdi wished to have the first three (the Lauds, the Te Deum and the Stabat Mater) performed for the first time at l'Opéra in Paris: this performance took place on April 7th, 1898. Verdi did not attend: two years earlier Giuseppina Strepponi had died and the old composer no longer felt up to making the long trip and the fatigue of rehearsals and directing. Arrigo Boito stood in for the Maestro in the preparation of the concert.
The Ave Maria, however, was not part of the Parisian performance.
It has little in common with the other pieces, apart from a sacred text. This piece was composed by Verdi as a mere exercise in counterpoint, stimulated by an invitation published in the Gazzetta Musicale of Milan, that proposed to its readers to compose a harmonisation for an enigmatic scale published in the journal. Verdi accepted the challenge and Boito furnished the text.
The whereabouts of the autograph manuscript is unknown to this day.