Day 150: Good Bye, Haydn…

HaydnCD150Today’s CD is the pianoforte version of Haydn’s symphony Die Sieben Letzten Worte (the Seven Last Words of Christ), which was composed in 1787. Haydn was 55 years old.

The pianoforte version is played by Bart van Oort.

Originally commissioned for a full orchestra, Die Sieben Letzten is composed of nine movements, described this way:

The seven main meditative sections — labelled “sonatas” and all slow — are framed by an Introduction and a speedy “Earthquake” conclusion, for a total of nine movements…The seven meditations on the Last Words are excerpted from all four gospels. The “Earthquake” movement derives from Matthew 27:51ff. Much of the work is consolatory, but the “Earthquake” brings a contrasting element of supernatural intervention — the orchestra is asked to play presto e con tutta la forza — and closes with the only fortississimo (triple forte) in the piece.

Today’s CD marks the end of my exploration of Haydn’s music. Thanks to the incredible Brilliant Classics record label, I was able to listen to Haydn’s entire creative output.

If you want to hear great music at an affordable price, you cannot go wrong with the Brilliant Classics label. If you want your own 150-CD Haydn Edition, visit Amazon. As of today’s date (February 27, 2014), the Hayden Edition is just $130 for 150 CDs. I’m no math wizard. But according to my calculations that’s less than $1 per disc.

Unheard of. Buy it. You won’t regret it.

So, good bye, Haydn.

Good bye, also to the people from seven countries who visited this blog since the beginning.

Here’s what I listened to today:

Frankly, I prefer van Oort’s pianoforte version over the full orchestra. I think it’s because the pianoforte – along with van Oort’s exceptional talent playing it – helps bring out the emotion of Haydn’s composition.

Piano is often a very melancholy instrument for me., anyway. When it plays Die Sieben it’s a perfect fit.


NOTE: If you’re interested in Woody Allen, stick around. Tomorrow, I start watching everything Woody directed, in chronological order.

Day 87: Die Sieben Letzen Worte

HaydnCD87Today’s music is the string quartet version of Haydn’s orchestra work The Seven Last Words of Christ (German: Die sieben letzten Worte).

Of course, what one thinks of the string quartet version may depend a great deal on what one thought of the orchestral version, which I wrote about on November 29, 2013.

I wasn’t blown away by the orchestra version. So this stripped down string quartet version isn’t necessarily an improvement.

That’s not to say it’s horrible, though. It’s not. It’s superb. It’s just not something I’d listen to on repeat all day while I write.

Here’s the story behind it from the article on Wikipedia:

At the request of his publisher, Artaria, the composer in 1787 produced a reduced version for string quartet: Haydn’s Opus 51. This is the form in which the music is most often heard today: a group of seven works (Hoboken-Verzeichnis III/50–56), with the Introduction abutting Sonata I and Sonata VII joined by the Earthquake. The first violin part includes the Latin text directly under the notes, which “speak” the words musically.

This version has come under suspicion of authenticity due to an occasionally careless manner of transcription, with crucial wind passages left out and only the accompanimental figures in the strings retained. As a result, some quartets make their own adaptation, working from the orchestral original.


551px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_What_Our_Lord_Saw_from_the_Cross_(Ce_que_voyait_Notre-Seigneur_sur_la_Croix)_-_James_TissotIncidentally, in case you were wondering what those “seven last words” were, this Wiki article explains:

The seven sayings form part of a Christian meditation that is often used during Lent, Holy Week and Good Friday. The traditional order of the sayings is

Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
Matthew 27:46: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
John 19:28: I thirst.
Luke 23:46: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
John 19:30: It is finished.

Traditionally, these seven sayings are called words of 1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Reunion and 7. Triumph.

As I have in previous posts, I can’t forget to introduce the members of the Buchberger Quartet (their site is in German):

Hubert Buchberger violin
Julia Greve violin
Joachim Etzel viola
Helmut Sohler cello

The other players in the quartet do not have their own web sites, apparently. So, no link to them. Sorry.

Here’s what I listened to today:

Day 60: Seven Last Words of Christ

HaydnCD60I was tempted to come up with a goofy title for today’s blog entry. After all, today marks two continuous months for me, listening to Haydn every day.

But the title of today’s Haydn composition is Die Sieben Letzten Worte, or The Seven Last Words of Christ.

How could I write a goofy headline with a subject matter like that?

Obviously, I couldn’t.

According to its entry on Wikipedia, today’s composition,

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 in 1787 for string quartet and in 1796 as an oratorio (with both solo and choral vocal forces), and he approved a version for solo piano.

The seven main meditative sections — labelled “sonatas” and all slow — are framed by an Introduction and a speedy “Earthquake” conclusion, for a total of nine movements.

Given those dates, Haydn was 54 or 55 when he composed this piece.

I have nothing against Jesus, last words or first. However, Haydn’s Die Sieben Letzten Worte is wearisome. It’s too ponderous (strike that: let’s call it lugubrious) for my tastes. No breakout arias. No orchestration that just knocks me back.

I often wonder if sacred/religious music like this is meant to be heard many decades (or even centuries) after it was composed. To me, it seems akin to somebody setting my prayers to music and releasing it as an album. In other words, making public very private, personal moments. The meaning I intend for that private moment may not be understood by an audience.

But what do I know? I’m not a Continue reading