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Seven Last Words of Christ

March 24, 2017 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

Haymarket String Quartet

Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin

Jeri-Lou Zike, violin

Dave Moss, viola

Craig Trompeter, cello


Franz Joseph Haydn’s masterpiece The Seven Last Words of Christ is a meditation on the gravity of tragedy and the possibility of hope and redemption, explored through the purity and intimacy of the string quartet. The music expresses the immense weight of Christ’s suffering in an Introduction, seven slow movements, and a depiction of the earthquake. Haydn wrote “each movement is expressed by purely instrumental music in such a way that even the most uninitiated listener will be moved to the very depths of his soul.” This work was originally commissioned in 1783 for the Good Friday services at the Cathedral in Cádiz, Spain, providing a sonic backdrop for meditation on each of the seven last utterances of Christ. This musical treasure has endured the test of time, remaining in the performance repertory for more than 200 years.

On The Seven Last Words of Christ, Haydn wrote: About fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of Cadiz to compose instrumental music on The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross. It was customary at the Cathedral of Cadiz 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 centre 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 prostrated himself 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…. 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…

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The Haymarket String Quartet is composed of members of Haymarket Opera Orchestra. Founded in the summer of 2016 in order to explore the rich quartet literature from the 18th century, HSQ makes its public debut with this concert.

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March 24, 2017
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Event Category:


Mark Scozzafave

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