In 1917 Alphons Diepenbrock arranged his Memorare (RC 54) for the tenor Giuseppe Reschiglian, a singer at the Opera Italiana in the Netherlands. It is not clear from the correspondence whether Preghiera alla madonna (Prayer to the Virgin Mary) was written at his request. In the autograph score Diepenbrock dedicated the work to Reschiglian.
The Latin text has been replaced by an Italian translation, while the rhythm of the vocal part has been adapted to the new text. The melody has also been changed in places, even though this is not always necessitated by the alterations to the text; for example, compare the melody of the “implorando il patrocinio vostro” (mm. 11-12) in Preghiera alla madonna with that of “tua petentem suffragia” (mm. 10-11) in Memorare. On the word “abandonato”, which occurs six times, the music is often varied. The organ part has been rearranged for piano, whereby the melodic contours remain unchanged, but the rhythm has been refined: the long chords in the organ have been replaced by chords that are repeated in an antimetric way (in quavers and crotchets). The rhythmic pulse thus created, gives the composition more energy.
According to Diepenbrock, when writing his Memorare, he had made an
unusable composition, not only for the liturgy, as the work would not be granted the nihil obstat, but also for the concert hall. He said this in his letter of 27 January 1916 to Gerard Brom (1882-1959), the editor of the new periodical De Beiaard who wanted to publish the sacred song as an appendix to the first edition of the magazine. Diepenbrock even went as far as to call it
a fairly useless possession, as firstly: the composition is not accessible for non-Catholics (because of the text and the nature of the music), and secondly: how many Catholic tenors and how many ditto organists are there who can sing and play it decently? (BD IX:45)
Nevertheless, he took another close look at Memorare, thus enabling it to be published as a facsimile of a fine neat copy.
By arranging the composition, Diepenbrock overcame his reservations against it being performed in the concert hall. And so Preghiera alla madonna was premiered by Giuseppe Reschiglian and pianist Willem Andriessen (1887-1964) in the Recital Hall of the Concertgebouw on 30 April 1917. The programme also included Diepenbrock’s Recueillement (Contemplation, RC 79) and vocal works by Alessandro Scarlatti, Caccini, Bossi, Theo van der Bijl, Tosti and Bizet.