Joseph Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ, a masterpiece of Western art in the same way as the Issenheim Altarpiece, was commissioned by the Canon of Cadiz so the piece could be performed on Good Friday in the church of Cadiz. It was commissioned in 1787, and was immediately acknowledged as a Major contribution of incomparable intensity and fervour.
The liturgy was conducted as follows: the priest quoted each of the words of the Christ, followed by a musical accompaniment. Haydn completes these seven slow movements with an introduction and a final Earthquake. "Each Sonata, or each text, is expressed solely through the instrumental music in such a manner that it automatically makes the most profound impression on the least informed listener," wrote the composer in a letter dated 8 April 1787 to his publisher in London. Haydn reworked this first orchestral version under the form of a string quartet and later under the form of an oratorio with lyrics.
With a rendering of The Harmony of Nations with lavish sonorities, Jordi Savall invites us to listen to the original score in the very place where it was premiered, the church of Santa Cueva in Cadiz: "More than two hundred years have gone by since then and, in spite of that, its spiritual message and its expressive potential have retained all of their value and suggestive power," says Savall. The wonderful light emanating from each of these scores has remained intact, thanks to the creative genius, the inner wealth, and the poetic and musical symbolic capacity of the master of Esterházy."
Recorded for television during Easter week in Cadiz, this film invites us on a journey to the heart of the classic era aesthetics, in a vision that is majestic and full of fervour.
Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan Memorial Concert
Bach Collegium Japan
Keys to the Orchestra by Jean-François Zygel