Musical Meditation: Haydn’s ”The Seven Last Words of Christ” - The Dodd String Quartet

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Tuesday In Holy Week
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm


(No Tickets or Reservations Required – Donation Requested)

The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross (German: Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze) is an orchestral work by Joseph Haydn, commissioned in 1785 or 1786 for the Good Friday service at Cádiz Cathedral in Spain. The composer adapted it for string quartet in 1787.

The seven main meditative sections‚Äîlabelled “sonatas” and all slow‚Äîare framed by an Introduction and a speedy “Earthquake” conclusion, for a total of nine movements. Haydn himself explained the origin and difficulty of writing the work when the publisher Breitkopf & H√§rtel issued (in 1801) a new edition and requested a preface:

Some fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of C√°diz to compose instrumental music on the Seven Last Words of Our Savior On the Cross. It was customary at the Cathedral of C√°diz 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 fell to his knees 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, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse. 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.

Formed in 2007, The Dodd String Quartet is one of the very few quartets today performing on period instruments. Focusing on the 100 years that saw the birth and subsequent evolution of the string quartet, the Quartet enjoys exploring rarely performed works along side the glorious mainstays of the quartet repertoire. Named for the great English family of bow makers whose designs spanned the evolution from the baroque bow into the modern bow in use today, the Quartet’s repertoire reflects the musical developments of this same age, from the late Baroque through early Romanticism.

In the brief time since its inception, the Quartet has performed in the United States and Europe to critical and popular acclaim – from Crested Butte, CO to Wiesbaden, Germany, and in a variety of venues in the NYC area, such as Merkin Concert Hall, the Times Center, and the Mark Morris Dance Center, and on a variety of concert series, including Salon Sanctuary, Friends of Mozart, and Midtown Concerts.