The Chamber Music Society of Colombo, in association with the Goethe Institute and sponsored by Fairway Holdings, is presenting one of Haydn’s greatest masterworks, ‘The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross’ (German: Die sieben Letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze), Op. 51, Hob. III:50-56.
The concert goes on the boards at the Goethe-Institute Hall at Gregory’s Road, on Monday, 29 February at 7:30 p.m. The featured principal string players of the CMSC will be: Lakshman Joseph de Saram, violin I, Cynthia Fernando, violin II, Othman H Majid, viola and Saranga A. Cooray, violoncello.
Haydn originally composed the Seven Words for a large string orchestra in 1786, for a Good Friday commission by the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva (Holy Cave Oratory) in Cadiz, Spain. It was headed “seven sonatas with an introduction and a concluding earthquake”.
After the premiere on Good Friday, 6 April 1787, the composer made an arrangement for string quartet, where he printed the Latin words which he wanted to highlight, under the first violin part. In 1796, Gottfried van Swieten, Haydn’s favoured librettist, produced the final text for the vocal/choral version with orchestra that is heard in modern performances during the Lenten season.
The string quartet version consists of seven main meditative sections. These are labelled „sonatas“ and are all slow and reflective, with varying moods, evoking the seven words from the lyrical „Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do“, to the almost symphonic „Father, Into your hands, I commend my spirit“.
It is considered by many to be one of the greatest string quartets written by Haydn (often referred to as the “father” of the genre), with a popular following during his lifetime, and is definitely among his most profound works of any description.
Adding several dimensions to the music, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mark Strand‘s poems inspired by Haydn‘s ‘The Seven Last Words’ will be recited. The poems will be interspersed with the music and will be read by actor Steve de la Zilva.