The Seven Last Words of Christ

6 posts / 0 new
Last post
The Seven Last Words of Christ

Thanks to a very recent brilliant recording of Praga Digitals of the "Seven Last Words of Christ" with the Prazak Quartet (in UK, I understand will appear in a couple of months), I decided to bring to the forum's table this magnificent work of one of the greatest fathers of Classical Music, namely Joseph Haydn.

The work originally was written, in 1786, for a normal classical period orchestra (the two trumpets and timpani appear practically only at the final movement-the earthquake-). The next year, he adapted it for String Quartet (this version remains the most popular, since it delivers the very essence, in the most intimate and yet emmotional way, of the work). In 1796, Haydn prepared the choral version of it, which remains the most outwardly impressive. Around the same period, a fortepiano version, prepared by an unknown musician and given to the Haydn's publisher, had been approved by the composer. In the hands of a great master player, this superb work sounds marvelously even on a single instrument.

However, apart from the masterpiece of Haydn, quite a few other composers have attempted to deal with this very difficult and sensitive subject.

Schutz seems to be the first to tackle the work. After Haydn, the Italian maestro Mercadante dealt with the subject. Then, we have the impressively lean and austere work of Cesar Franck, in the heart of the Romantic period. Almost, around the same period, Theodore Dubois prepared a quite powerful and emotionally charged version of the issue. All these versions are choral works.

In the 20th century, we have two Organ versions by Alan Rideout and the great French organist Tournemire (a huge work of immense and emmotional power). Finally, we have Gubaidulina, for String Orchestra and bayan (a  Russian folk instrument) and Mac Millan (a Choral work).

I would love to know more composers who dealt with this subject as long as any comment, interest and further discussion on this topic, as we move to the Holy Week and this kind of music of the repertory may become essential listening.

Parla

RE: The Seven Last Words of Christ

I think it might be difficult to find any further composers, as you seem to have done comprehensive research already.

I am glad this topic has been raised, because it reminds me to search out and enjoy MacMillan's music. I heard this work some time ago by accident, loved it, and have been meaning to follow up ever since.

 

RE: The Seven Last Words of Christ

You seem to have a special predilection for 20th century composers. However, if you manage to find any recording, try Frank's work. It's a modest but such a masterpiece. I think there is a fine recording on the obscure label Erol.

Do you have all the versions of Haydn's glorious masterpiece?

Parla

RE: The Seven Last Words of Christ

I have no version of the Haydn, because I do not know the work. This is my loss. I have found the 20th, and mid-to-late 19th C. so rich, that I have not explored earlier music.

Thank you for highlighting these masterpieces.

I must commend you for your extensive knowledge, along with other erudite posters. Mine pales by comparison, although I did not pursue any formal studies in music. I work (worked, I should say) in other fields, and I am simply a listener.

RE: The Seven Last Words of Christ

You will be surprised how richer is the Classical period and its composers. Haydn, for example, is such an abundance of musical delight, profoundness, wit, craftsmanship, creativity, inventiveness; just name any quality you wish to find in music and there it is.

The "Seven Last Words" is an amazing masterpiece, consisting of seven magnificent Sonatas (all in Sonata form), all in slow to very slow tempi (Lento to Adagio) with a superb introduction in a massive d minor and a Presto finale, representing the "earthquake", in a thunderous c minor. It's one of these very few works that can stand near the String Quintets by Mozart and the Late String Quartets by Beethoven. All the versions, including the one on Fortepiano solo, are wonderful, despite the one for String Quartet remains the most sublime and the most performed.

Give them a try. You'll never regret it.

Parla

RE: The Seven Last Words of Christ

Analekta (the fine Canadian label) just issued a "world premier recording" of a new "Seven Last Words", set to music, in the form of a rather long Oratorio (on 2 CDs), by the neglected, underrated but not insignificant late Baroque composer named Graupner.

For those who might be interested and avid collectors.

Parla

Log in or register to post comments

Gramophone Subscriptions

From £48/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From £48/year
Subscribe
From £48/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From £48/year
Subscribe
From £48/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From £48/year
Subscribe
© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2014