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.