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Kreuzigung webJoseph Haydn: The Seven Last Words of Christ


Original version of the famous Haydn's oratorio for harpsichord or fortepiano,  (Hob. XX/1c)

harpsichord solo (one hour programme with commentary)

In 1785, the canon of Cádiz requested Haydn to compose a special piece for Holy Week service in church of St. Cueva in Andalusia. Every year, a new oratorio was performed here during Lent. It was a customary in the cathedral that, after a short introduction, the priest read always one of the seven last Christ's sentences and afterwards, he knelt before the altar and meditated on these words together with the believers. Haydn was to compose music right for these moments of contemplation, music which would deepen the meaning of the uttered words.

As a result, a composition consisting of prelude, seven meditative parts and one dramatic piece in conclusion - „Terremoto“ (Earthquake) was written. This breathtaking intimate work was in a big orchestral setting premiered in 1787 under the baton of the author and met with great acclaim. Immediately afterwards, Haydn adapted it also for string quartet and in 1796 published oratorio version as well as the authorized version for harpsichord or fortepiano.

After a short introduction, the first of seven words starts. „Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do“ and the work concludes with last word: „Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!“

L'Introduzione (Maestoso ed adagio)

Sonata I (Largo): Pater, dimitte illis, non enim sciunt, quid faciunt/Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Sonata II (Grave e cantabile): Amen dico tibi: hodie mecum eris in paradiso/Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Sonata III (Grave): Mulier, ecce filius tuus, et tu, ecce mater tua!/Woman, behold, your son!

Sonata IV (Largo): Eli, Eli, lama asabathani?/My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Sonata V (Adagio): Sitio/I thirst.

Sonata VI (Lento): Consummatum est!/It is finished!

Sonata VII (Largo): Pater! In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum/Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!

Il terremoto (Presto e con tutta la forza)/Earthquake