Friday, March 15, 2019

Sacred Music for Lent in New Mexico: Haydn’s The Last Seven Words of Christ

Una Voce New Mexico is sponsoring a performance of Joseph Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ, to be held on Saturday, March 23 at 7pm at the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, located at 401 Old Santa Fe Trail.

The Seven Last Words of Christ was commissioned in 1786 to be performed on Good Friday at the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva (Holy Cave Oratory) in Cádiz, Spain. It consists of seven sonatas, preceded by an introduction and concluded by a much faster movement known as the “Earthquake”. The Wikipedia article on it cites the following description of the manner of its performance by Haydn himself from one of his letters. “It was customary at the Cathedral of Cádiz 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 center 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.”

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