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The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross, Op.51

Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)

Cuarteto Casals (photo credit: Felix Broede)

Cuarteto Casals (photo credit: Felix Broede)

Composer
Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)
Composition Year
1786-7
Work Movements
Introduzione: Maestoso ed Adagio
1.Largo - Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do
2.Grave e cantabile - Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise
3.Grave - Woman, behold thy son, son, behold thy mother
4.Largo - My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me
5.Adagio - I thirst
6.Lento - It is finished
7.Largo - Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit Il Terremoto - Presto e con tutta la forza
Artists
Theo Dorgan [Reader], Cuarteto Casals (Abel Tomás Realp, Vera Martinez Mehner [violins] Jonathan Brown [viola] Arnau Tomás Realp [cello])

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

There will be readings of Michael Hartnett’s Mountains Fall on Us between the movements

Haydn himself described the birth of this extraordinary work in his preface to the published score of the oratorio version. The commission he had received from Cadiz was for instrumental music on the Seven Last Words, to accompany the Good Friday service as then celebrated by the Bishop of Cadiz in the Chapel of Santa Cueva, a rock-cut chapel below the cathedral. It was first performed in the original orchestral version on Good Friday 1787. It was well received from the start, building on the old tradition of Passiontide devotions, and it became one of Haydn's most popular works during his lifetime. In order to facilitate wider circulation, Haydn himself arranged the version for string quartet and authorised a piano reduction. Later still, when he was writing his famous oratorios - after hearing dramatic performances of Handel's Messiah in London - he produced yet another version for soloists and choir.

The solemn introduction is followed by seven slow movements, each preceded by the appropriate Latin quotation as recorded in the Gospels and a reading of the relevant Gospel verses. In the original orchestral score, the Latin text is written above the first violin's part showing how the melody relates to the words. The work concludes with a short presto movement that depicts the earthquake that followed Christ's death, the earthquake that is the herald of the Resurrection.

The uncompromising D minor introduction prepares us for what is to follow with music of unrelenting darkness and savagery, though not without a handful of phrases indicating the possibility of tenderness. The imagery is stark and vivid even down to the blows of the hammer nailing Christ to the Cross. Of the following seven movements, Haydn himself wrote to his English publisher: Each Sonata, or each setting of the text, is expressed only by instrumental music, but in such a way that it creates the most profound impression even on the most inexperienced listener.

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The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross, Op.51

Composer: Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)
Performance date: Wednesday 3rd July 2013
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Joseph Haydn (b. 1732 - d. 1809)
Work Title The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross, Op.51
Composition Year 1786-7
Work Movements Introduzione: Maestoso ed Adagio
1.Largo - Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do
2.Grave e cantabile - Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise
3.Grave - Woman, behold thy son, son, behold thy mother
4.Largo - My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me
5.Adagio - I thirst
6.Lento - It is finished
7.Largo - Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit Il Terremoto - Presto e con tutta la forza
Artist(s) Theo Dorgan [Reader], Cuarteto Casals (Abel Tomás Realp, Vera Martinez Mehner [violins] Jonathan Brown [viola] Arnau Tomás Realp [cello])
Performance Date Wednesday 3rd July 2013
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Late Night Concert
Duration 00:57:15
Recording Engineer Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category String Quartet
Instrumentation 2vn, va, vc
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

There will be readings of Michael Hartnett’s Mountains Fall on Us between the movements

Haydn himself described the birth of this extraordinary work in his preface to the published score of the oratorio version. The commission he had received from Cadiz was for instrumental music on the Seven Last Words, to accompany the Good Friday service as then celebrated by the Bishop of Cadiz in the Chapel of Santa Cueva, a rock-cut chapel below the cathedral. It was first performed in the original orchestral version on Good Friday 1787. It was well received from the start, building on the old tradition of Passiontide devotions, and it became one of Haydn's most popular works during his lifetime. In order to facilitate wider circulation, Haydn himself arranged the version for string quartet and authorised a piano reduction. Later still, when he was writing his famous oratorios - after hearing dramatic performances of Handel's Messiah in London - he produced yet another version for soloists and choir.

The solemn introduction is followed by seven slow movements, each preceded by the appropriate Latin quotation as recorded in the Gospels and a reading of the relevant Gospel verses. In the original orchestral score, the Latin text is written above the first violin's part showing how the melody relates to the words. The work concludes with a short presto movement that depicts the earthquake that followed Christ's death, the earthquake that is the herald of the Resurrection.

The uncompromising D minor introduction prepares us for what is to follow with music of unrelenting darkness and savagery, though not without a handful of phrases indicating the possibility of tenderness. The imagery is stark and vivid even down to the blows of the hammer nailing Christ to the Cross. Of the following seven movements, Haydn himself wrote to his English publisher: Each Sonata, or each setting of the text, is expressed only by instrumental music, but in such a way that it creates the most profound impression even on the most inexperienced listener.