Tuesday, 26 August 2008

153. Joseph Haydn - Seven Last Words (1787)


Title: The Seven Words
Performer: Rosamunde Quartet
Year: 2000
Length: 1 hour 5 minutes


This is an interesting recording of some peculiar sacred music. Firstly it is sacred music played by a string quartet, although originally it was for full orchestra, but there are no choirs or vocals at all.

Then it is a sequence of seven slow movements with a slow Intro and a chaotic conclusion. It is a testament to the brilliance of Haydn that he manages to keep your interest for what are essentially 8 adagios which last between 6 and 10 minutes each and a 2 minute explosion.

He manages to keep the listener interested because of the sheer variety of slowness that he produces and the heart-achingly beautiful quality of them. It is also an interest throwback to Baroque sacred music without ever losing classical sensibility. A very interesting piece indeed.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

The composer later explained to his amanuensis G.A. Griesinger:

"Some fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of Cádiz to compose instrumental music on the seven last words of Our Savior on the Cross. It was customary at the Cathedral of Cádiz to produce an oratorio every year during Lent, the effect of the performance being not a little enhanced by the following circumstances. The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the center of the roof broke the solemn darkness. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse. My composition was subject to these conditions, and it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each, and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners; indeed, I found it quite impossible to confine myself to the appointed limits."

The Earthquake at the end:

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