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     Franz Joseph Haydn
(1732-1809), the Austrian composer, opened the era of Viennese classicism.  Haydn established a genre of classical symphony, which became a pattern, or at least a start-point for composers working in this genre during the next two centuries.
    Though his musical career became a huge success in Europe, his childhood was not promising.  Joseph's farther was a poor wheelwright.  The young composer sung for ten years in a boy-choir before his voice changed and he was dismissed.
    In 1759 Haydn got his first appointment as a Kapellmeister at Count Morzin's Palace, where the seventeen-year-old composer wrote and performed his first symphony.  Soon Count Morzin became bankrupt and Haydn again was on his own.
    Eventually, in 1761, he was fortunate enough to meet Prince Esterhazy, who invited him as a Vice-Kapellmeister at Esterhazy's Palace.  Haydn worked there for almost all the rest of his life, gradually becoming Kapellmeister and what was much more important - one of the greatest composers of his time.

The Seven Last Words of Christ

1. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."  Luke 23:34

When the crucifixion procession reached Golgotha, Jesus was crucified along with two criminals.  The Roman soldiers divided up his clothing by casting lots.  "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Son of God, the Chosen One".

2. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."  Luke 23:43

One of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus said: "Aren't you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!"  Another rebuked the first one: "Don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."

3. "Woman, behold, your son!"."Behold, your Mother!"  John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw  his Mother and one of his disciples standing near, he said to his Mother: "Woman, behold, your son!".  Then he said to the disciple: "Behold, your Mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

4. "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"   Mark 15:34

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"  When some of the people standing around the cross heard this they said: "He's calling Elijah."  Some believe that at that moment Jesus took on himself the sins of the world and was for the first time truly separated from the Father.

5. After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the scripture, "I thirst."  John 19:28

The verse says, that he said "that the scripture might be fulfilled."  In verse 15 we read: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws."

6. "It is finished."  John 19:30

The prophecies had been fulfilled.  Everything was in order.  The plan was complete.

7. "Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.  Luke 23:46

He had now done all, that He came to do, and there was only one who could do the rest - the Father.

    In the introduction to the first edition of the oratorio "The Seven Last Words of Christ" published in 1801, Haydn confessed, that it took approximately fifteen years for him to complete the composition after the cathedral at Cadiz commissioned him.
    Eventually, the orchestral version was finished in 1786 and premiered the next year on Good Friday.  The ceremony began with the bishop reciting the first word.  A short sermon interpreted a message from Our Lord.  After that the first movement of Haydn's composition was played.  The remainder of "The Seven Last Words of Christ" followed the same pattern.
    Haydn wrote seven slow movements and called them "sonatas".  After that the introduction and epilogue symbolizing an earthquake after Jesus' death, were added.  The orchestral version was so popular that Haydn arranged "The Seven Last Words of Christ" for string quartet, as well as for piano. Joseph Friebert, a composer from Passau, wrote the text on Haydn's orchestral piece and turned it into an oratorio.
    Haydn did not like Friebert's version and composed his own oratorio based on his orchestral original.  Nowadays "The Seven Last Words of Christ" for string quartet is the most popular.  Maybe, because the four-voice setting for strings is perfect to express the dramatic moment of crucifixion and bring an intimacy which lets every listener perceive the last minutes of Our Savior's earthly life not as a social event but privately.
    Though Mendelssohn considered the music of "The Seven  Last Words of Christ" "scandalously gay", Haydn valued it as one of his greatest works.

    The Borodin String Quartet was formed in 1945, in Moscow, and named for a pioneer composer of Russian instrumental chamber music, Alexander Borodin.
    Of their recent tour in Spain: "The Borodin Quartet is another world.  Few ensembles today offer this level of quality and cohesion, which combines technical ability with expression so marvelously balanced".  Gramophone wrote: "Few quartets have learned to look so far away from themselves and so deep into the very centre of the music". The Borodin String Quartet is undoubtedly one of the major quartets of today.

2003 Evgeni Kostitsyn


Joseph Haydn
The Seven Last Words

Seven Sonatas with Introduction and Conclusion for Two Violins, Viola, and Cello
Hob. XX 1B (III Nos. 50-56)

1. Introduction. Maestoso ed Adagio     5:30
2. Sonata I. Largo                                 6:31
3. Sonata II. Grave and Cantabile          8:29
4. Sonata III. Grave                               9:52
5. Sonata IV. Largo                               7:17
6. Sonata V. Adagio                              9:32
7. Sonata VI. Lento                               8:39
8. Sonata VII. Largo                             7:21
9. Conclusion. Presto con tutta la forza  1:47

Total Time - 65:46

The Borodin String Quartet

Mikhail Kopelman, violin
Andrei Abramenkov, violin
Dmitri Shebalin, viola
Valentin Berlinsky, cello

cover painting "Golgotha" by Edvard Munch

Recorded at the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in December, 1984
Recording engineer, Shakhnazaryan

Design by Evgeni Kostitsyn